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. 🙂

 

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More Christian than you can poke a stick at

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

jesus-smallWhat me, Christian?

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

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

Christian but not Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosicrucians – the tradition with no (identifiable) members

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

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

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

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

Pagan Deities and Suchlike Things

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

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

J.G Frazer, a fine looking chap

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

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

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

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

Lashings and Lashings of Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rounding Off

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

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

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

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

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 🙂

Tradition

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.

Attacks

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.

Conclusion

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 🙂

The Nicene Creed and I

This is a personal exploration post on Christianity and may not interest some folk. Thanks for your patience until next post. Oh, by the way – if you read just a little and think you have me pegged as ‘converting to Christianity’, you’re wrong. Read on. 🙂 

I have never particularly settled into any single religious or spiritual designation. There might be a Golden Dawn ritual on Friday, Tibetan Buddhist teaching on Saturday and Anglican Mass on Sunday.  Really, my practice is either very catholic or very promiscuous – depending on your point of view 🙂

However, I maintain that I am not partaking of some new age homogenization of traditions into a bland milk-water me focused ‘spirituality’. Rather, I am practically applying the verity taught in the esoteric traditions that at root there is only truth, though applied many ways. Some folk have found my esoteric approach too slippery by far and think I am up to no good practicing all these things at once. I have been called ‘Christian’ by Pagans and ‘pagan’ by Christians. Ho hum.

This does not of course mean ‘all religions are one’, which they patently are not, but it does mean we share a common origin, internal makeup and are motivated by the same deeper forces, both temporal and spiritual. I think taken as a whole MOTO describes my esoteric approach well. Specifically of course, I practice the Three Fold Way of the west (described in this post) which gives me ample room for esoteric practice of many sorts.

Soon I will be undertaking Confirmation in the Anglican Church. Now, from my esoteric perspective – which over the last 25+ years has been planted very deep – this should cause no more emotional distress than my taking Refuge with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Membership of the Church will allow me to unfold and serve the One with more truth, harmony and beauty. I know that, which is why I am being confirmed. However, I cannot deny that there are Christian voices that assert Christianity is not as other religions and which reject the view that all authentic traditions stem from and lead to the same eternal truth. In the words of Fr Gregory Tillett:

Christianity makes a number of exclusive claims: it does not represent itself as one religion among many, as simply a better alternative, let alone an equal option. Jesus declared: No man comes to the Father except by me. One can accept or reject that claim, but the claim is clear and unambiguous.

Prior to the late 1800s virtually all western esoteric and occult groups were created by and for Christians who accepted orthodox theology where Christ and the Incarnation are seen as something different than myths of other deities. Since the spread of Theosophical monism from 1875 onwards most occultists now use and embrace Christian symbolism but not the Christian religion. There is a big difference.

It would be easy for me to do the same, simply say ‘all is One’ and utilize the wonderful and compassionate strength of the Christian tradition. But I simply cannot do this. The core Christian message is not one of utility but one of love and obedience. I need to approach my esoteric Christian unfolding from a traditional perspective, not a mish-mashed modernized monist slop with a dash of Leadbeater on the side. I know internally at the deepest level all is reconciled, but I need to hold that knowledge within my mind and emotions too.

Mercifully, the Anglican Church has few doctrinal accretions to ‘believe’ – it would be far harder being a Catholic magician. But as part of my upcoming Confirmation I will be affirming the Nicene Creed, something I do each Sunday already (when not engaged in pagan sex magic :)). The creed of course provides the essential elements of orthodox Christian belief and is therefore a great yardstick for me to ensure I am not wandering off on my own esoteric Christian trip.

When I affirm the creed on Sundays I am already in an altered state and engage at a several deeper levels. It then becomes a spiritual vehicle by which I touch upon the eternal verities the words refer to, hopefully aligning me to that sacred truth and beauty. However, as preparation for my Confirmation I feel the need not only to engage with the Creed inwardly but to explain outwardly how I reconcile its tenants with esoteric understanding and practice.

I am hoping what follows will not be a typical modern ‘esoteric Christian’ interpretation which is really a tabula rasa upon which to foist all sorts of unrelated theologies and speculations. Rather, I am honestly trying some form of literary reconciliation between the creed and esoteric thought (see this post), and I seek feedback on how I do. Thanks a bunch 🙂

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen

We believe …

As Karen Armstrong and many others have pointed out the modern understanding of belief has atrophied into a surface level intellectual assertion of doctrines or theological statements. However, the word ‘belief’, stemming from the Latin credo shows where we commit our heart, our beings, our energy, our selves. Our own personal credo and our engaged and deep assent to other creeds define us, inspire us and move us towards what we hold sacred. So when I say ‘We believe’ I am collecting myself and committing myself to the truths within the creed and how they can hold, change and bless me into service.

Of supreme importance here is the type of truth the creed holds. I do not believe it is plain simple, ‘literal truth’. We are not being asked to assert a series of postulations, which of course we cannot know, but must instead trust  imperfect and heavily redacted scripture open to many interpretations. What would be the point in that? Mature followers of any religion know better. Rather, I think the creed refers not to literal truth but mythic and religious truth. It invites us to give our hearts and souls to the mystic truths and relationships to which it points. So, I am not concerned with whether I ‘believe in’ what the creed says, but rather how the mysteries it points to cohere with esoteric thought, or not.

In one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

The unity expressed here inspires me deeply – ‘there is none but the One!’. There is no conflict with esoteric understanding at all. However, the rest of this line, the positioning of the One as Creator forming a Creation appears in direct contrast to much modern esoteric thought which is essentially monist and emanationist. This has problems, not the least of which is pointed out by Gareth Knight:

To believe that all things unfold of their own accord from nothing is to assume that man is capable of expanding his consciousness until he eventually becomes as God, comprehending all…  Experience of the Inner Worlds, p15.

We all now where such thoughts can lead…

However, one can reject monism and not be bound by the theistic-Creator paradigm the creed seems to imply to so many people. The wording here implies a theistic God to theistic minds but is not insistent upon it. Obviously words such as ‘father’, ‘almighty’ and ‘heaven’ are not denotative but rather connotative. God does not ‘father’ the universe like a man fathers a child. While the creed is clear that ‘God’ creates all, it does not reject the possibility that God could also be all. This is the difference between theism, pantheism (a form of monism) and panentheism. Whilst pantheism and a demiurge are specifically not included in the creed, panentheism is not excluded.

Panentheism means God is in all things, all creation, but is not identical to or exhausted by creation. ‘He’ remains transcendent to ‘his’ creation as well as immanent within it.  The ‘making’ the creed refers to is for me an emanation of the One into material form rather than the ex nihilo creation of the universe as separate to God (but overseen by His omniscience) as most people seem to take it to mean.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.

If any passage in the creed shows its struggle to express the inexpressible, this is the passage 🙂 Anyway… The crux here is Christ. My credo, my commitment of my heart, mind and soul to Him is of course an ongoing unfoldment. Without getting all exclusive and righteously Christian, I do accept something brilliant and unprecedented happened in the Incarnation. We can speculate and theologise about this but all our words, theories and theologies do really is to help us approach, not define, this mystery. The fact that the Christ event produced hundreds of different early Jesus Movements, all trying in different ways to make sense of what happened means something impossible to grasp did happen.

From an outside and exoteric perspective the creedal assertion of Christ as the only Son of God seems to be a theological straitjacket.  We either accept this claim or not. However, lifting from an earlier MOTO post:

My own way out of this impasse was found years back when reading about a guy visiting William Blake (don’t ask me for a reference, this was when I was 17 or so, and I remember only this). This guy, a committed Christian, tried to ‘trap’ William by asking straight out if he accepted Jesus Christ as the only Son of God. To which William replied, “Oh, definitely He is. But, then so are you, and so am I”.

This reality, this eternal truth, can only be experienced not discussed. The best and most direct way I know of is extensive meditation on this phrase from St Bonaventure, used in Christian based Golden Dawn Orders the world over:
“God is the circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”.

This meditation also holds the key, along with the Holy Qabalah for the reconciliation of Theistic esotericism such as esoteric Christianity, monist esoteric schools and non-theistic esoteric Buddhism like the Vajrayana.

The phrase “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” expresses the eternal mystery of the infinite One emanating infinity from itself and still remaining infinite. ‘Eternally’ in this phrase clearly means beyond the temporal reality we know, not simply “going on forever”. Beyond space-time, as it was, is and ever shall be, the Trinity existed; the relationship between God the Father and God the Son has ‘always’ been. There is no conflict here with any esoteric principle I work with 🙂

Begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. An essential understanding of that relationship is there is a single God with three persons (not modes), hence the assertion that Christ is the ‘true God’, that He is the same (one Being) as God the father. Christ, unlike us created or emanated beings is therefore begotten, having the full ‘characteristics’ of God the Father. The creation of the universe, seen and unseen, takes place through the agency of the second person of the Trinity, Christ as the Word of God. Again, there is no conflict here with esoteric principles and thought as I partake in them.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.

Here, if we view the creed as referring to literal space-time events we can come into problems. Really, I do not know if the mother of Jesus Christ was called ‘Mary’ or an Aramaic equivalent. I do not know if she was a physical virgin with hymen intact. However, the meaning behind this part of the story of the Incarnation is full and splendid, and it is that which I assent to, that to which I give my energy. Of course, there is always a danger we can as individuals impart whatever ‘meaning’ we want onto words and scripture and therefore create our own little hetereodox cult of one one that simply serves our illusions and ego. We therefore need guidance from tradition and common sense and honest companions on the way.

The point of course is that we always project our own meaning and interpretations onto all words, creed, newspapers and scripture alike. The phrase he came down from heaven is of course not literal; no one thinks Jesus was existing in space somewhere and then descended and somehow popped into Mary’s womb. We make sense of this phrase knowing heaven is not a physical place in the sky but some form of spiritual reality. Even the most literalistic of Christians would agree to this. Metaphor and meaning follow us wherever we go and it is with this awareness I approach the creed.

The Incarnation points to perfection (God) becoming truly human (imperfection) whilst still God (Christ) so that we can find a way (Salvation) to return to our origins in perfection (Heaven). As an esotericist I see this occurring through a life long process of theosis or divinization rather than repentance and personal acceptance of a relationship with Christ. I step outside the Canon a little;

“Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.” Gospel of Phillip.

Fnially, there are all sorts of esoteric interpretations of virginity, the Holy Spirit etc. For me though, none of these are necessary – I am happy to give my energy and faith to the mystery of perfection becoming human and imperfect via the presence of the One in action (Holy Spirit).

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

Again, the literal time-space events referred to here, if they happened as described, are only useful with meaning. The meaning is Christ as perfection (God) and imperfection (human) being willingly tortured and suffering death to show a way of redemption and salvation through brokenness and suffering, which is the natural state of fallen (i.e not perfected) humanity. A universal Way is therefore shown and made available to all humanity. There is no conflict with my esoteric principles here also.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Once more I am moved by the meaning here, not the possibility of someone ‘coming back to life’. The ‘defeat of death’ is really far, far more than Jesus popping back to physical life. The mystery that from death comes life and from brokenness comes wholeness is what moves me during this part of the creed. To be honest, I am not fussed if the Jewish scriptures align with this mystery or not. The ascension  to heaven and seating at the right hand is again full of meaning, being the return to unity/Oneness of the Word of God having fully Incarnated into perfection. The Ascension of Christ completes the Incarnation process and seals the Way, creating a spiritual cycle and template for us to emulate on a different arc.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

This phrase has always generated a bit of a confusion in me. Some Biblical scholars give plenty of evidence to suggest that the pre-Easter Jesus, the man (before the birth of the Jesus Movements and Churches) was more an apocalypticist than anything else. I am in no position to make a judgement call here, but I will admit I can find nothing directly relevant to my esoteric practice from an orthodox Christian understanding of this phrase. There are plenty of esoteric interpretations, but I really am only interested in reconciling broad esoteric principles with orthodox understanding of the creed. I therefore live with the question on this phrase, and will admit to mumbling it in church 🙂

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

Here we complete the Trinity by giving our hearts, energy and trust to the Holy Spirit. As will be obvious to anyone who has tried, understanding the Trinity conceptually is impossible. It is really a meditation, a way of approaching the eternal relatedness of the One. We cannot know a single person of the Trinity alone, and we cannot know the Trinity as a static event or phenomena since it is eternally relating and becoming. This of course ties in fully with esoteric principles, even with simplistic attributions of God the Father to Kether on the Tree of Life, God the Son Incarnated in Malkuth and God the Holy Spirit as that which moves between all spheres in action and inspiration. The noted esoteric historian R.A. Gilbert also affirms that Rosicrucianism is necessarily Trinitarian, which makes sense to me.

I am also happy to affirm that the Spirit moved and moved through the prophets. And no where does the creed state the Spirit cannot move and move through us.

…who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Here we enter the world of religious politics as this famous Filioque clause was an addition to the original creed by the (Roman) Catholic church and was a contributory factor to the great schism between eastern and western Christendom in 1054 ce.  There are lashings and lashings of pages written about it but essentially the addition of the words ‘and the Son’ seem to give a very different theological bent than saying the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. I do not have time to go into all this, but my own interaction with the Trinity concept suggests to me the addition of the clause jars with the overall mystery. I am therefore very happy that, in a spirit of ecumenicalism the Anglican Lambeth Conference and other big bodies want to remove the clause in subsequent revisions of liturgy. I simply drop it in my own practice.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

Here we enter the final section of the creed where various concepts are assented to. The one holy church here is more a concept than a temporal reality. The Jesus Movements were never unified and as soon as the church was born schism and multiplication began. Many of St Paul’s letters are concerned with correcting errant doctrine and practice in the early church. However, the conceptual idea of one church is in some ways similar to the true and invisible Rosicrucian brotherhood Paul Foster Case writes about. It is an ideal, an overarching archetype presenting the truth that behind temporal difference there is internal agreement as all churches are instituted by Christ through the Great Commission. Honouring and affirming this vision and ‘belief’ we are  moved to let go of theological and temporal difference and find deeper wells of unity. This is exactly what the esoteric traditions affirm also.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

‘Remission of sins’ is the more traditional and better English translation as forgiveness really can only be given by those offended, which often include a human party as well as God. However phrased, this line of the creed is a direct rebuttal to some early Christian practices of two or more baptisms. However, it also has a deeper meaning. When our sins are remitted we symbolically are the Body of Christ, each members of one another. Thus the practice of baptism, in its broadest context, as no directions or description is given, is affirmed as method of unifying Christians. It is for this reason the Anglican Church welcomes those baptised in other traditions to receive Communion, though the Catholic Church is yet to follow suit. I am happy to affirm and give my heart to such inward move to unity as really it is quite similar to esoteric principles in general. Of course we need to constantly through various religious means ‘renew’ our baptism and re-enter the remitted state, as it is part of our nature to separate ourselves from God.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Again, resurrection is not described or defined and different Christians (and Anglicans) take this phrase to mean quite different things.Since a primary esoteric principle is that of transformation, I do look for the resurrection of the dead in some form or other. At root we are unborn, undying and unchanging. At some point we will manifest again. Despite many direct experiences over the years of dying, death and apparent rebirth, I cannot know exactly what will occur when I die until I die. But I do know I will, in some form, continue in a ‘world to come’. Therefore this is very easy for me to affirm and connect with my underlying esoteric principles. To this clause, and the entire creed then, I affirm on the bones of my ancestors, gone to the land of the dead (Amenti) – Amen, Amen, Amen.

 

Anne Rice, Christianity and the esoteric religion: more pondering

The news this week that Anne Rice has ‘given up’ being a Christian came at an interesting time for me. This is what she wrote, among other things, on her Facebook page:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Similarly, for all these and other reasons, I have never identified myself as a Christian. Despite some puerile and stupid glee from a few anti-Christian quarters, Ms Rice’s decision seems to have been met with praise and understanding from atheist, orthodox and heterodox Christian alike. When I first read it and the silly Pagan and anti-Christian gloating that followed, I felt I had to blog. Then I read Michael Rowe’s article “Why Anne Rice Has Never Been More of a Christian” and was happy he said a lot of what I wanted to say on the matter.

Ms Rice’s cri de coeur was relevant for me in two ways. Firstly, the emotion I sense behind her first post seems to mirror a similar feeling I have for the western magical and occult community. I have blogged on this before here and it is why in the census (and on my Facebook page) I have labelled myself as Tibetan Buddhist. The lack of maturity, sense, compassion and wisdom in the western magical and esoteric communities fairly depresses me.

Secondly, I have recently been deepening my exploration of Christian religion (e.g. Church services), tradition (the Christian cultural paradigm expressed, for example, in classical music) and mysteries (my RR et AC and esoteric Christian work). All three have yet to come together in one experience. Hey, a guy can hope 🙂

Overall I have gained deeper magic, mystery, love and service than ever before, most of it generated from my esoteric engagement I am sure. But…it is still Christianity…it is still all those things Anne Rice pithily outlines. So there is a tension within me as I deepen my Christian exploration. I love the mystery, the incarnational blessings, the ritual and especially the inherent compassion of Christian religion, but loath, detest and reject much of the social crap that goes along with it it.

Now one of the things I have always tried to instill in all the magic and magical groups I have led is compassion and service (see this post and comments thereon). Their very absence from much of the occult and magical community I suggest stems ultimately  from the formation of the fraternal and esoteric brotherhoods as distinct entities to religions from the early Enlightenment. These brotherhoods, particularly Freemasonry kept the need for communal service and charity (not compassion) but as they expanded and split, the absence of the Christian religious impetus seems to have resulted in new groups not placing these ethics at the core of their identity. Until at last we end up with the secular psychologized magical groups of the 21st century where there is no service, no charitable collection, and no compassion.

My insistence on the need for compassion in magic has of course been supported the most by peers with a Christian background. This makes complete sense and in fact I have also always, often with much friction from other members, in our magic tried to bring about what may be called a religious experience. Now of course, everyone, including me, has always said the Golden Dawn is not a religion, it is an esoteric or magical or spiritual path. Not many people like the term ‘religion’ these days as they have been more than a little burnt by the shenanigans of Christianity and the like as described above. So we are “spiritual but not religious”, a tag I have rallied against many times as it fairly makes me puke. To quote Karen Armstrong on her feelings about people identifying themselves with this label:

“I can’t stand that. Spiritual often just means some kind of wishy-washy me-ism, where I’m having a lovely experience without much discipline. You know, designer Kabbalah in Hollywood or designer yoga….Spiritual can mean, “I feel very spiritual when I look at the sunset, but I’m quite happy to slag off Islam and not to give any money to charity. I’m quite OK with the fact that we’ve messed up the Middle East and people are dying every day in Iraq-not just our soldiers but others who are dying as a result of our mistakes. I’m quite happy with the inequality of our social system.” That is not proper spirituality. Feeling is neither here nor there. You’ve got to get deeper than feeling. We know in our own lives that feelings come and go. Like Aquinas said, you can’t feel God any more than you can know God.”

Many other religious scholars also have little truck with the modern notion of divorcing spiritual experience from religious expression as they know we never re-invent the wheel, we never create Ex nihilo like God but always draw from somewhere, some communal resource, idea, paradigm or teaching. Heck, even that current paragon of all things deep and spiritual Eckhart Tolle had to study traditional religion before he could express his ideas and awareness to others.

For example, the other day I read a paper by one of the main scholars of new religious movements,  J. Gordon Melton’s From The Occult To Western Esotericism: Catching Up With Changes In The New Age Movement. In it he argues, as he has done elsewhere that western esotericism is the third religious tradition in the west. When I read this paper I pondered and sighed and paced and sighed and mused and sighed. I had read the concept of esotericism being a third western religion before of course, but this time it sunk in deeper.

Now the working description of esotericism given by Prof Melton is a lot broader and more inclusive than most magicians would allow that term. I mean, UFO cults?  Personally, no thanks (not that there’s anything wrong with that). However, he does draw on the pioneering work of Antoine Faivre, a real heavyweight dude in the academic study of esotericism. Dr Faivre identified several core characteristics and signs of esotericism. In the Golden Dawn context I summarised the presence of these characteristics in a lecture I gave a few years back:

Unity and Concordance of Religious Forms. This posits an underlying universal divinity which is given expression and manifestation through the world’s various religious and spiritual systems. All religions are seen as valid, however the divine may be expressed: as Jesus, Buddha, the Great Goddess or simply the divine within. However, it is important to be clear that this is not an attitude of simple religious tolerance and ecumenicalism, but rather a profound realization of the mystic truth behind various religious forms.

The Non-Physical Universe. In the Golden Dawn the universe and the human being is seen as being both physical and non-physical. The non-physical universe is mapped out in a cosmology derived from the Hermetic Qabalah and is essentially Neo-platonic, showing the great chain of being linking all things from the densest earth back through the realms to the unknowable One.

The divine place of Nature and Matter. Nature, in the Golden Dawn, is not only sacred but contains reflections of all the various powers of the universe within it. Similarly the human body is a microcosm, a perfect universe in miniature, capable of reflecting the highest truth and spiritual principals. Nature and the human body therefore hold a special place in the Golden Dawn – they are the summation of the entire works of God. The Golden Dawn here is explicitly panentheistic – God is both Immanent, within all of nature, and Transcendent – beyond the comprehension of human consciousness.

Correspondences. This belief is both very potent and very ancient. Each type of spiritual force is associated with a particular aspects of the material world; a colour, a divine name, a shape, a tool, an incense, a metal and so on. In magic to attract and commune with a particular blessing, the Golden Dawn will make use of these correspondences in the choice of robe, ceremony, incense etc.

The possibility of Transformation. Since the human being is a miniature of the universe, containing a reflection of all the universal powers, the Golden Dawn asserts we may develop our beings infinitely.

Now these characteristics do offer a very different religious experience to that found in and promoted by most mainstream Christian denominations (I can’t speak about Judaism). Which is what we should expect, as esoteric and exoteric Christianity are not the same, but two sides of the same spiritual mystery. The question really is this: does esoteric practice conflict crucially with exoteric Christian religious doctrine? Christianity as actually practiced and experienced by Anne Rice and us all is another matter of course. Examining the core aspects again:

Unity and Concordance of Religious Forms. Whilst some form of this understanding is at the heart of the doctrine of most Catholic (universal) and Orthodox (big ‘o’) churches, there is often little recognition of the fact in actual church practice and teaching. The most that is often found is the idea that the newer rite of Christ supersedes all previous valid religions and that other religions while they have some merit are not operating with the fullness provided by the Church. Heck, Pope Benedict even says that about all other Christian Churches besides the RC, calling them ‘congregations’ rather than Churches. (Bad Pope! No soup for you). Many Protestant sects are even worse; in fact a few would cheerfully burn MOTO readers if they could 🙂 However, the doctrine is there.

The Non-Physical Universe. Core Christian doctrine on this matter is generally absent. Like much of the world, most churches ignore the intermediate realms between the physical and the heavenly. One thing is really clear however, Nicene Christianity is not Neo-Platonic. There is no chain of being leading back to the One. God created all things, seen and unseen, out of nothing via his fiat. The difference between the two theologies is very pronounced. This does not mean orthodox Christians cannot and do not engage with the non-physical, which of course they do. It does however mean we cannot ascend this chain of being to the One by our own merits; there is a gap between us and the One that can only be crossed by the action of the One. More on this later.

The divine place of Nature and Matter. Contemporary Church attitudes to the world have changed recently, but were and often are still nothing short of woeful. However, once more core church doctrine does see matter and nature as sacred but for different reasons than Neo-Plantonic esotericism. It was created by the One and therefore is good. It has God fully within it, just as any creation has the mark of the creator within it. All matter, all flesh, all our bodies were and are sanctified by Christ’s incarnation. On the ground Christian thought and action may deny this, but the doctrine is clear.

Correspondences. Generally Christian doctrine does not deny this belief and in fact affirms it in some places. Certainly there is much use of correspondences in traditional Church liturgy and practice, though not to the same extent and with the same connection to the inner realms as in esotericism.

The possibility of Transformation. It is here we come to the crucial difference between Christianity and esotericism. Christianity is salvific where salvation from the unredeemed human state occurs via the action of Jesus Christ, or more properly our response to his eternal and continual action. Esotericism one the other hand is enlightenment based and supposes we can and are capable of redemption without salvation. Nicene Christianity will always say, in one form or another, we cannot get to perfection, restoration, enlightenment, heaven or what have you, on our own. We need God and more particularly we need God in human form. Since we require help to move from imperfection to perfection, God as perfection knows nothing of imperfection and therefore cannot help us. Hence the Incarnation.

Now I have always felt and taught, even in magic, we do need help from the divine. We cannot do this on our own. This is no doubt one of several reasons why I gravitate more to the Vajrayana rather than Thervadan Buddhism; there are lots of Vajrayana saints and beings to help along the way. But, I am equally convinced we do not need Christ. The One, the mystery, that-which-we-cannot-name is present and ready to help all of us, at any stage ,no matter who we are what spiritual tradition we are in.

What we do need, I think, religious or not is the awareness we are not actually alone, ever, that we are all radically interdependent. That we do not ever self-transform as we are One. I have spent so many years with this truth, so much daily meditation on it, it seems so self evident to me now that whenever I hear of spiritual development and magical attainment and self-improvement I get a bit confused. Once more I re-read and shiver at the words of Martin Luther King on the side bar, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny.” The paradox is that while we never transform singly, the instigation to transformation is always personal and always individual 🙂

A Pagan Golden Dawn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 🙂