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. 🙂

 

Dangers of the Golden Dawn (well all magic, really)

This is sort of a follow up to my post from several years back, Nine Dangers of the Golden Dawn. So you just have to go and have a look there too  🙂

I have been having a spot of conversation with a new friend who knows a lot about all sorts of things, including the Golden Dawn. Getting on a bit, he has studied these things for a mere five decades and contacted several surviving Orders and members in the UK back in the day. He recounts something I have heard before: post WWII, the Order was left to die by its members. That is, they stopped magical working, stopped trying to induct new memberships and let the dust pile up on once glorious temple rooms.

R.A. Gilbert in his ‘Golden Dawn Scrapbook’ writes about the aged adepts who could bring about a renaissance of the Order if they choose – but they choose not. And Nick Farrell recounts how the Inner Plane contacts of the AO ordered the shutting down of the Order around and post WWII (of course, Whare Ra only suffered this fate as late as 1978).

If we are practicing the Golden Dawn (and really any magic coming from it or inspired by it), we have to take a good hard look at these facts. We cannot ignore them – they are pretty telling. If the GD offers a superlative magical system for spiritual development for the modern era, why was it rejected by its own adepts and Inner Plane contacts?

Now, the Inner Plane contacts directive we can, if we like to do these things, more easily write off by invoking ‘corruption of the contact’ or ‘subconscious influence from the medium’. And I am sure folk did just that. However, the real, physical actions and choices of senior adepts is another matter.

When we look at these things two main answers to the question, ‘why?’ come to mind:

  • The Golden Dawn was fine – even brilliant – in its day, but the day has passed. It was and is time to let go and let other things arise.
  • The Golden Dawn was a great experiment – but ultimately it did not work; the Inner Contacts and the Adepts recognised this and let it die.

We can also assume we in 2014 know more about all of this than those Adepts between the 1940s and 1970s and say, ‘they were wrong (or only partly right) … the purpose of the closure of the AO and other temples was actually to let the egregore and magic be open to the thousands of others who could now access it via published works (and now, the Net)’.

All well and good. We ‘makes our choices’, as they say.

Personally, I wonder if the reason for the critiquing and closing of the various Orders and temples had resonance with the concerns I raised in my previous post, Nine Dangers of the Golden Dawn? If I were reframing those dangers, I would today highlight one above all – the self.

Whereas in the original post I cautioned about ‘ego inflation’, I think such a bold term is likely to make folk reject that it has anything to do with them. Today I’d rather caution that the Golden Dawn, and all magic, can lead us to a situation where we place ourselves, our will, at the centre rather than the One. To quote myself 🙂

So modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.

The magic circle should really be a place where we stand knowing ourselves as the centre of God’s love and attention (like all beings), the will of the One moving through us.

Instead magic can easily fool us into believing, that when we stand at the centre of the circle, we are actually the centre of the universe and can control the forces and beings we invoke – which is of course classic magic and, IMHO, a sure path to nowhere. Equally however, we may argue along with Canon Anthony Duncan (in Gareth Knight’s brilliant, ‘Christ and Qabalah’), that as soon as the One is at the centre, magic ceases to be magic at all.

Now this is a subtle thing, really a matter of approach rather than outward actions or choices of magic and rituals. The same ritual can be used and approached in different ways, as Professor Ronald Hutton writes of the Qabalistic Cross:

‘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.

It then becomes crucial that, to use Buddhist terminology, the ‘right view’, the right understanding of the universe is inculcated or already within the student from the very start, as I describe in this post, Magic – what is it good for?

This however requires theory and theology rather than praxis, something most magical students want to avoid like a marginal-seat politician before an election. It is for this reason – to ensure and promote the ‘right view’ – I think the GD insisted on a belief in a Supreme Being and interest in the Christian traditions – as the right view comes from both. It is for this reason I always try and foster a religious attitude, if not practice, in any students I have. These things are crucial.

More distinct ego distortions in the Golden Dawn occur not only because of outward things, like the titles and grades, but also inner difficulties. These mainly centre on the incredible potency and strength of the magic of the Golden Dawn being used at incorrect times. Though this is often said, I sometimes think most people somehow do not think it applies to them personally:

THE GOLDEN DAWN IS NOT A MAGICAL TRADITION.

Magic was only practiced in the Inner Order, the RR et AC, after the student had completed seven initiations, much preparation and been linked to currents of transformation, the Rosicrucian tradition and their own Genius. If we practice magic too early in our spiritual development, distortion can EASILY occur.

Finally, I will lift from a previous ‘dangers’ post, as it is still very apposite.

IT FEELS LIKES IT’S WORKING!

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. As Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault says:

…it is depressingly clear that ninety-nine percent of what is being promulgated as contemporary Western spirituality is merely fine-tuning the ego.

What makes an esoteric path effective, what makes it actually able to lead us to the One is death and resurrection. 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. However, even the ‘death and rebirth’ instigated by the highly developed Golden Dawn initiations, like the Adeptus Minor, is becoming part and parcel of the intellectual and lower self framework of magicians. If this happens, then death becomes just another magical experience and therefore we block to death as it truly is.

This is a danger of having esoteric paths made exoteric and then taught by people who have not died, who are still in the two value mindset I mentioned above and do not know it. The Golden Dawn suffers from this considerably, and Vajrayāna Buddhism is beginning to suffer the same fate in the west.

Repeating the bleedin’ obvious: our modern western society and therefore all of us are afraid of death. We hate it, we fear it, we deny it, and we handle it incredibly badly. Death though is the key to the esoteric, and as anyone who has experienced esoteric death will tell you, it is no metaphor. To quote that greatest of Priestesses, Dion Fortune: “There are two deaths; the death of the body and the death of initiation. And of the two, the death of the body is the lesser”.

We need to die. And to be reborn. And now I’m sounding all Christian again. Oh, well 🙂 THANKS.

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 🙂

Rosicrucian Magic as Exegesis

ctOne of the features of modern magic is its diversity. Take the Golden Dawn for instance. These days there are as many varieties of the Golden Dawn tradition as “cheap, really cheap” mobile phone plans. And like mobile phone plans, many are not quite what they appear and can cause no end of problems.

I have blogged before on the difference between the Golden Dawn as a continuing Order and the tradition that has grown in its wake. Both are valid, both are useful and both have their problems and drawbacks which I don’t really want to go into here.

The Golden Dawn tradition has largely grown up within a modern milieu that valorises the individual and without guidance and structure from a parental body. It has had to – most of the contemporary GD groups are not daughters of the Mother Order (often not any Mother Order) and most adepts have relied on public or semi-public sources of information. Not that’s there anything wrong with that. In many cases the lack of traditional structure, support and information has inspired new heights of creativity and genuine spiritual unfoldment.

Other modern magicians have a converse opinion and valorise the original Order(s) and members to a dizzying heights almost bordering on cultish worship. There is a problem when students of the tradition look backward to the historical Order and view the core documents almost as if they were Gospel. If something is not explicitly spelt out in an historical document or practice by default it is viewed as invalid.

Now I am a big one for tradition, probably far more than most, but I think this attitude misses an important point. Magic, or at least RR et AC magic is more akin to exegesis than a reading of the Gospel. The RR et AC is very clear; it provides basic formulae and the adept herself creates the rituals and processes from those to match the specific time, conditions and spiritual requirements of the group or adept. Magic is supposed to be creative. It is supposed to take us beyond the structures, rituals and procedures used by someone else. It is supposed engage our Genius. To quote no less an authority than myself (cos I can’t be bothered re-wording) 🙂

…the only way we can authentically practice Golden Dawn spirituality is by engaging in the same daring paradigm shifts that the original GD did, not by simply following a ‘tradition’. Indeed I would argue that the ‘true’ Golden Dawn tradition is more concerned with recreation and reinvention of the esoteric than any set path. This ‘perennial’ Golden Dawn is constantly re-birthing, remaking itself, directed not by the needs of individuals or individual Orders, but from the Inner Plane contacts and Masters that hold the unformed Order itself . (MOTO)

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RR et AC Rose Cross

Now this is not to say tradition goes out the window or there are no ‘rules’ to follow. As an example I receive much practical teaching from Inner Plane sources. Like any good boy I always check these out. Many years ago I received some information which was claimed to be traditional RR et AC, as in from a paper that existed in shared space-time back in the 1900s. I naturally wanted to check this out before accepting it (though it was very good and made sense).

This was at the dawn of the Internet age and I was on one of the first GD forum-things. I cautiously posted a question to illicit any responses. What I received was a number of people giving me their ideas on the matter in question. Just what they, in direct response to my post, felt or thought about. This was not at all salubrious and quite a shock as several people decided they would do the processes they had just thought about – which they would not have, had I not posted. I have kept quiet on such matters ever since.

This example shows clearly the type of magical creativity to avoid; something stemming from the personal. Also, we need to remember a very important point: magic is an Inner Order activity. It was never and in all sensible and authentic Orders, is never practiced in the Outer Order. We need a high degree of personal development, compassion, service and removal of imbalance in order to practice magic. This is why it is an Adept’s art and why the Tipharethic consciousness, however nascent, is required to practice magic.

So RR et AC magicians are not actually practicing for themselves. Being connected through years of preparation and the most astonishing initiation imaginable, their spiritual endeavours are not theirs alone. Thus their magical processes are never created or influenced by a personal ‘feeling’ or ‘idea’. They endeavour to create only through the inspiration of the Genius. The difference is marked and wonderful.

Another crucial point is found in the comparison of magic with exegesis: the number one rule for exegesis in Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism is that it, the exegesis should be compassionate and inspire greater depths of compassion in the exegetes and those who in read it. In magical terms: our personal magical processes and rituals need to be founded on love and compassion; they should grow our heart and love and that of any other participants. They should serve the world. If our magic does not do this, we have failed.

So, Rosicrucian magic is a creative, living art which inspires and creates love. We do not follow any set ritual or process but only the broader, deeper principles and formulae that I have previously called Metaorthopraxy (but I now think really should be Orthometapraxy). I know there is modern school of thought, exemplified by folk like Joseph Lisiewski who focus on the correct performance and practice (Orthopraxy) of Grimoire based rituals. But this is not Rosicrucian magic and is not held by our Master in Christ, CRC. Indeed, I have not seen much talk of love, service and compassion in this school of magic, which is a hallmark of Rosicrucian spirituality. Thanks for reading 🙂

The Lotus Wand, Dion and Consecration

One of the best parts of helping other folk learn this wonderful tradition of western esoteric spirituality is that I receive a lot more than I give. The One is so compassionate 🙂 The other day a corresponding student playfully (I think, you can never tell in an email) took me to task for my valorization of Dion Fortune and the Golden Dawn at the same time. She listed, one after another, contradictions between Dion’s current and take on magic and that of the Golden Dawn. A few of these I readily agreed were real and Dion worked a different type of magic. So I had to explain how I reconciled the two in my own practice and service, and that was a great thing to do. So thanks Sr FD 🙂

Many apparent contradictions between the two systems are, in my opinion, not really there or based on Dion’s inadequate instruction by her GD superiors. An example I think worth discussing in public, is this statement from Dion, quoted by the brilliant Gareth Knight in his introduction to Dion’s ‘What is Occultism?’

I have never found it satisfactory to work with incompatible forces at the same time, and this, I think, is a weakness in the “Golden Dawn” method;it is all together too ecletic and synthetic. I have dismal recollections of consecrating the Lotus Wand to all Twelve Signs of the Zodiac in a single operation. They kept on neutralising each other, and at the end of the operation one felt like the Irishman who tried to take his pigs to the market, each tied to a separate string. People to who magic is a vain observance may be contended with such methods, but for my part I never saw that Lotus Wand again, and never wanted to.

If Dion attempted to consecrate the Lotus Wand using basically the same instructions as those in the Regardie compilation (without oral guidance from a superior) I can see her point. A correct consecration would not have involved the cancelling out of the Zodiacal forces at all. The instructions say to have ready the Ritual of the Pentagram. This however should not have been given to Dion without the Pentagram lecture and diagram outlined in this post. Further oral instruction on the meaning of the diagram and its methods of use should have been given. This would have resulted in the skills required to complete the task successfully.

One of the key mysteries that working with the diagram brings to us, to put it in limiting words, is the unfoldment of the pentagram in all its forms (elemental, Sephriotic, Zodiacal) from the Ain Sof. Correctly understood and practiced this allows the consecrator to produce twelve separate but simultaneously connected invocations of the Twelve Powers. This connection and separation at the same time is held by another oral instruction given to the RR et AC adept; the correspondence of the 12 Apostles to the 12 Signs and 12 Pentagrams. Just as the 12 are separate, even to the point of betrayal, yet are part of Christ’s mission and work, so too are the 12 Signs and the 12 Consecrations apart and united.

Of importance as well is the understanding and practice of the type of consecration being asked for here. They are many types of consecration and several classification systems to explain them, but briefly we can class most consecrations as one or more of the following:

  1. Psychological or Suggestive Consecration. You think and act as if the bread is the Body of Christ.
  2. Bringing Forth the Natural Qualities of the Item Consecrated. You expand the qualities of ‘bread’, its creation and function into the etheric-astral-mental component of the bread.
  3. Charging the Item. You invoke the presence of Christ into the etheric-astral-mental component of the bread.
  4. Charging and Linking and Item. You invoke the presence of Christ into the etheric-astral-mental component of the bread and keep the link open, so it may be drawn upon later – e.g., when the Communicant receives the bread so that their own openness to Christ draws Him further into the bread as they Commune.
  5. Birthing an Etheric-Astral-Mental Component of the Item Into Objective Life and Existence. A new etheric-astral-mental structure is created to hold the presence of Christ within the bread’s etheric-astral-mental structure so it will always be there, even centuries after the consecration. Hence those alive statues in the British Museum 🙂
  6. Changing the Essence of the Item. The ‘essence’ of the bread is changed into the ‘essence’ of the Body of Jesus Christ. This is full transubstantiation and really is done by the One, not the Priest or magician.

In the consecration of the Lotus Wand, like in the consecration of many of the RR et AC and GD temple tools, the type of consecration is a particular form of fourth type, charging and linking. Here the emphasis though is on the linking. If the wand is consecrated in any other way it will not function correctly.

The various powers of the Zodiac are invoked into 12 connected but separate mental level ‘forms’. Each of these forms is linked to  one of the 12 bands of the wand on the mental level alone. The link is the key here, not the charging on the astral-etheric level. The links provide a doorway to the 12 powers but these 12 are not immediately present within the etheric-astral presence of the wand, until they are called upon. When a wand is inactive on the altar it is not pumping full of zodiacal force – indeed as Dion suggests, having all 12 powers at once  on these levels would be rather chaotic 🙂

The wand is rather a Malkuth means to quickly ‘earth’ the particular powers the magician wishes to call upon. The placement of the thumb on the band of the sign in question links the physical and etheric. The formulation inwardly of the appropriate imagery completes the astral level. The inward recitation of the correct Sacred Word activates the mental ‘structure’ in question. Once done, when the magician performs the Pentagram or whatever ritual, the macrocosmic forces are easily able to be attracted to and move through the mental structure created at the consecration and from their into the lower spheres through the sphere of the magician.

This is a different approach to consecration than often conceived in today’s magical and pagan communities where people like to get their tools buzzing and glowing on the astral like the teeth of tele-evangelists. The Lotus Wand is created simply and beautifully as a doorway. It has no power until it is activated. This is like the Hierophant’s Sceptre in the Outer Order – completely inert until the start of the ceremony when, through the correct keys at the hands of an installed Hierophant, it becomes literally the focal and directing point of nearly all the blessings of the ceremony. I just don’t think Dion was told this or given the inner keys to make it happen. Which is hardly surprising as they are still not out there much. Nuff said?

Esoteric Christianity – Trinity or Unity

Sometimes I have the opportunity to simply wander around the Net – most often as I am installing Windows on a new PC at work. Recently I came across a lovely webpage, the Rose Circle Research Foundation with a link to a talk by R.A. Gilbert the Masonic and esoteric Christian historian. In the paragraph introducing this talk it is stated that Mr Gilbert “perhaps the first time in the public realm” spoke of himself  as a practicing esotericist.

Like the ‘news’ that Michael Moore is a Christian, this is no surprise to me at all: Mr Gilbert wrote freely in his Elements of Mysticism of his experience within a Christian Qabalistic group. His membership of the Quatuor Coronati lodge would also have given him contacts to several practicing Christian esoteric groups.

Of little surprise but of interest to me is Mr Gilbert’s view (to quote from the website):

…once one moves away from the Trinitarian Christian approach to this ascent up the Tree of Life, it ceases to be Rosicrucian.

I have more than once stated on MOTO that the Rosicrucian inner order of the Golden Dawn, the RR et AC is a Christian order. I think it cannot be readily understood or approached without communion with Christ. It is strange that the RR et AC and the GD (since the GD leads to the RR et AC) attracts so many people anti or ambivalent to Christianity. I simply do not know how it works.

Mr Gilbert’s assertion (if he made it, as I am quoting a report not the talk itself) that the required Christian approach be Trinitarian is new to me. I have never really thought it through, since Trinitarian Christianity is part and parcel of the Anglo-Catholic traditions behind most Rosicrucian and esoteric Christian traditions. My own Christian esoteric connections and work have definitely been Trinitarian.

However, I am also deeply influenced by the works of Neil Douglas Klotz and others on the original words, works and life of Christ and they definitely come from a Unitarian perspective. I have always found my rituals, meditations and body prayers within this tradition of Christian work to produce a distinctly different ‘feel’ to that of my western Christian esoteric work. I have instinctively avoided conflating the two, even to the extent of having differing Icons of Christ upon the altar dependant on the practice I was undertaking. I am wondering now if Mr Gilbert has hit the nail on the head and the reason why my work with, for example the Aramaic words of Christ, cannot be incorporated into my esoteric Christian work is because it comes from the Unitarian perspective.

I might be slow in realising this and everyone else out there knows this 🙂 But if you have thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them. Ta.