Monday, March 23, 2015

The Sentinel Beyond 0=0, Part 1

In the modern Golden Dawn community, it is commonly believed that the Sentinel is not present after the 0=0 (or, in some cases, after the 1=10), but there is a significant body of evidence that shows that this was not the case in the original Order, that, in fact, the Sentinel stood outside the door of the Hall for all grades of the Outer Order.

Before we explore this evidence, let us consider some of the reasons why the Sentinel "dropping out" has become the status quo:

1. The vast majority of ritual scripts, including the redacted Stella Matutina texts printed in Regardie's book, do not mention the Sentinel in 1=10 and above. In most cases, when the Kerux or Hegemon is asked to check if the Hall is properly guarded, the rubrics simply say "Done," "Does so," "This is done," "Having done so," or something equally vague. In some cases, no rubric is given at all.

2. There is an established pattern of officers dropping out at particular grades (Stolistes and Dadouchos after 1=10, and Kerux after 2=9), and since Sentinel is the only office that can be held by a 0=0, it can be inferred that he or she likewise drops out after 0=0. This inference is even found in footnotes in Regardie's book.

3. There are proposed magical reasons based on the above pattern, one of which I have seen being the idea that the Sentinel is essentially "absorbed" by the Candidate after 0=0, and then Stolistes and Dadouchos are "absorbed" after 1=10, and so forth. Thus, the Candidate essentially takes on these roles him or herself in higher grades.

All of the above may seem quite compelling at first, but there are significant flaws with all three points:

Firstly, the lack of clarity in the rubrics does not, in fact, intimate that the Sentinel is not present, but rather that the process of checking if the Hall is properly guarded is simply done. I would argue that in places where the text does not specify directions, it is expected that the members would follow the previously instructed procedure, which, in this case, is given in the 0=0. In other words, the Kerux gives one knock, which is answered by the Sentinel.

Secondly, the pattern of officers who drop out from the ceremonies already has a major issue, because the Hegemon, whose office can be held by a 3=8, does not drop out after 3=8. That office is kept on for 4=7, and must be held by a 4=7 then. 

This also affects the proposed magical reasons for officers dropping out, because only the Stolistes, Dadouchos and Kerux actually drop out of the ceremonies. If the idea was that the Candidate "absorbs" each office as he or she goes through the ceremonies, why does the pattern suddenly stop halfway through? While I can see potential explanations for this, the point is that the noted pattern is not consistent, and thus cannot alone be used as a basis for the Sentinel following suit.

It is also important to consider the fact that dropping the Sentinel after 0=0 (or 1=10) effectively leaves the Hall unguarded for those higher grades, which is not a good thing practically, symbolically, or magically. This certainly would not follow the protocol established by either Freemasonry or the SRIA (both of which heavily influenced the GD), where the Tyler and Acolyte guard the door for all of the ceremonies.

Now, let us consider the actual evidence for the Sentinel remaining for all five Outer Order grades:

1. Crowley's handwritten copies of the rituals explicitly show that the Sentinel gives an answering knock to that given by the Hegemon, in the case of the 3=8 and 4=7, as shown below:

The Sentinel is also mentioned in the closing of the above ceremonies.

In the case of 1=10, the Sentinel is not mentioned, but then neither is the knock given by the Kerux (the Kerux simply says that the Hall is properly guarded, with no rubrics). For 2=9, the Sentinel is not mentioned, but the knock by the Kerux is. Since the Sentinel is shown to be present in 3=8 and 4=7, however, the logical conclusion is that the Sentinel is also present for 1=10 and 2=9.

2. One copy of the 1=10, originally copied in 1896 and then revised by the rebels in 1901, has the typical "having done so" crossed out, with the knock of the Kerux and Sentinel added in.

While an argument could be made that this is a change implemented by the rebels (there are a number of changes elsewhere), I would argue that, in this case, it is actually just a clarification of the implied instructions.

Further, a typed copy of the 1=10 script, from the Amoun Temple of the Stella Matutina, clearly has the Sentinel giving an answering knock to the one given by the Kerux.

Further still, while my own copies of the Whare Ra (Smaragdum Thalasses) rituals do not mention the Sentinel, Pat Zalewski argues in his Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries book that "the Office of Sentinel is not dropped after the Neophyte ceremony," and that copies from both the original Golden Dawn and Whare Ra "clearly state this officer is present." (p. 189, footnote).

3. A lecture given by Brodie-Innes in 1895 on the 1=10 grade explicitly shows the presence of the Sentinel in Zelator:
"But it is the Sentinel, the Watcher Without, who prepares you to enter. Blindfold the King enters upon his Kingdom, blindfold because he must enter in faith. By knowledge he can never enter, by pride of accomplishments and attainments he can never enter; for man may study his whole life, he may attain riches and honour, but he never by these means can attain to the kingship of his own body, but only by faith. Therefore he enters blindfold; and it is not the Hegemon, representative of Mercy and Equilibrium, but it is the Sentinel who keeps and guards the door without, who thus prepares him."

4. If we were to argue that the lack of mention of the Sentinel in most scripts means that the office is not present, the same argument could be made for the dais officers, who are typically not mentioned in the rubrics, and not shown in the temple diagrams.

Yet, we know from Z1 (and, indeed, the Cypher Manuscript) that no meeting can be held without at least one of the Chiefs, and that it is preferable if all three are present.

Further, the same 1=10 paper by Brodies-Innes cited above tells us:
"Now the Hierophant and the Chiefs of the Temple, sitting upon the Dais, represent to you powers recondite and occult powers beyond anything you can know or conceive of at present."

This, therefore, confirms the presence of the dais officers in 1=10, and, by logical conclusion, in the other Outer Order grades. Thus, the argument that they are not mentioned in the ritual scripts, and thus must not be present, has no basis in this instance. While the above is somewhat of an aside, this arguably applies to the Sentinel as well.

5. In the Exordium of the 1=10, a paper explaining the inner workings of the Zelator ceremony, which was given to Theorici Adepti Minores, it states:
"As in the 0=0 Grade, the Candidate is waiting in the care of the Sentinel, and the Hegemon is sent to superintend his preparation. All that was said to the ZAM may be now considered as repeated here."
See the next point for more on this.

6. In all five ceremonies of the Outer Order, the Hierophant instructs the Hegemon to "superintend the preparation" of the Candidate. To superintend something is to supervise, oversee, or administer it. It does not mean to actually perform it, but rather to ensure that it is properly performed by another.

Z3 explains this as follows:
"But the actual Preparation of the Candidate is performed by the Sentinel, the 'Watcher Without,' to show that this Preparation must be first accomplished before the establishment of Equilibrium can occur. Therefore doth the Hegemon superintend the preparation rather than perform it actually." (underlines in original)

While the above text relates specifically to the 0=0, it does highlight the difference between superintending and performing the preparation of the Candidate. Thus, if the Hegemon is to "superintend" in 1=10 and above, someone else (namely, the Sentinel) must perform the actual preparation.

The above should be sufficient to show that the Sentinel was, in fact, originally employed in all the Outer Order grades, and that the modern practice of dropping this office is an error, no matter what arguments may have subsequently been made to justify it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Four Elemental Implements, Part 2

For many, making magical tools is a significant challenge, and for some it is even an obstacle. After all, not everyone has woodworking or metalworking skills, so the Elemental Implements can seem quite daunting.

Something that I found interesting when going through Ritual G was the wording for creating each of the implements. There is a subtle distinction between making/forming two of them (the Wand and the Pentacle) and adapting the remaining two from existing objects (the Dagger and the Cup).

For the Fire Wand, we are told that it is "convenient to make the wand of wood," though cane (or bamboo) with an existing hollow and notches presents an easy alternative. Yet either method requires some amount of assembly.

For the Air Dagger, we are told that "any convenient dagger, or knife, or sword may be adapted for this purpose; the shorter the better."

For the Water Cup, we are told that "any convenient clear glass cup may be adapted..."

Ritual G does not use either word in relation to the Earth Pantacle, but a Whare Ra (Smaragdum Thalasses) copy distinctly lists the following titles for each section:

The Construction of the Wand
The Adaptation of the Cup
The Adaptation of the Sword (referring to the Dagger)
The Formation of the Pentacle

This, to me, is rather interesting, because I think the Dagger is one of the primary stumbling blocks for many students in creating their own Elemental Implements. Yet if we can simply adapt "any convenient dagger," then that process is significantly easier.

Yet, when the modern student thinks of the Air Dagger, a particular shape comes to mind, based on the general shape shown in Regardie's book, where the hilt is somewhat curved forward. This appears to have become the most popular design of this implement, but, of course, it is not required.

In fact, the design shown in Ritual G is strikingly different, and much closer to that of the Sword, which is itself based on the design in the Key of Solomon. I provide an example of this below (without the Hebrew, etc.).

The original design of the Air Dagger given in Ritual G

Of course, it is important to recall the actual instructions in the text, which allow for an existing dagger to be adapted. Most daggers will be significantly plainer than the above diagram.

In fact, even for the Sword, which is also depicted like the image above (albeit with a longer blade), Ritual G tells us "the shape of hilt there given is not absolutely necessary." The same instruction clearly applies to the dagger (with historical examples coming in varying shapes).

These tools, therefore, do not have to be overly complex in form, and even the least skilled craftsman can adapt an existing dagger for use. Here is an example of one used by either Yeats or his uncle Pollexfen (it is not clear which, as there are images of another attributed to Yeats, which is very different, and much less crude).

© National Library of Ireland

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Four Elemental Implements, Part 1

The Four Implements (the Wand, Cup, Dagger, and Pentacle) are perhaps the most iconic and memorable set of tools in the Golden Dawn tradition, relating to the four elements, the Tetragrammaton, and the four suits of the Tarot.

Due to their elemental nature, some groups have incorporated their use into the Outer Order, tasking initiates to make and consecrate each particular tool in the grade related to that particular element. On the surface this might seem like a good way to better imbue the tool with the associated element, but the big problem with this, aside from Inner Order teaching not belonging in the Outer Order, is that these four implements are not to be separated (as would be the case if divided by the four Elemental Grades).

Ritual G tells us that these implements "have a certain bond and sympathy between them," elaborating as follows:

"So that even if one only is to be used, the others should also be present. Even as each of the four Elemental Tablets is divided in itself into four lesser angles representing the other three elements bound together therewith in the same Tablet."

Thus, even in the consecration of each implement, the other three are present on the altar, and, indeed, actually employed in the consecration ceremony itself (along with the Sword, which is often used in conjunction with the Elemental Implements).

In Flying Roll XXVIII, Mathers and Westcott reinforce this teaching:

"The four Elemental Implements should be all laid on the table before you for immediate use as required. The whole four must be present to preserve a certain balance and harmony in the sphere of your aura..."

Thus, these implements should be left until 5=6, where they can be constructed and used together, as intended.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Nazi Persecution of Esoteric Societies

As we remember the suffering of the Jews, and other minorities, at the hands of the Nazis, let us also consider that members of esoteric societies were also persecuted, and often were seen as a political threat to Hitler.

As many as 200,000 Freemasons are believed to have been murdered by the Nazis, and Hitler issued orders to ban and dissolve Freemasonic lodges, as well as "Freemason-like organisations," including the Golden Dawn and the OTO.

Freemasons were forced to wear an inverted red triangle in concentration camps, marking them as political prisoners.

On a list of almost 50 "forbidden organisations," issued in 1936, we see the following:

Hermetischer Orden der Goldenen Dämmerung

This is German for "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn." Of course, by this stage the original Order no longer existed, but the name still had a powerful resonance, and there were several temples from the various offshoots still active.

Wherever there is teaching designed to promote the spiritual advancement of people, to encourage them to think for themselves, to forge their own path in life, and to value and protect the diversity among us all, there is likely to be oppression.

Therefore, let us remember those who died, and pledge to never allow, through action or inaction, the persecution of any minority. Let us consider that our fraternal ties not only bind us to our Brothers and Sisters in the Order, but to everyone throughout the world.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Adeptus Minor Sash

When many in the modern Golden Dawn community first encountered the 5=6 sash worn by W.B. Yeats, which is on display at the National Library of Ireland, it presented what appeared like a very unusual design, with some suggesting that Yeats added symbols of his own. Even today it is often called the "Yeats sash," as if it was entirely unique to him.

Yeats' 5=6 sash (© National Library of Ireland)

The reality, however, is that this sash design is actually the official one, and was what all original Order members used, not the typical version we see all over the internet today. For example, here is Aleister Crowley's one:

Aleister Crowley's 5=6 sash

In case one might think this is a fluke, there are several other surviving sashes from original Order members, including ones attributed to A.E. Waite and W.A. Ayton, dated to c. 1892, the year when the Inner Order was formally established. There is even one from around 1920. All of these bear the exact same design as the one Yeats wore.

Furthermore, the original GD Portal ritual (which differs greatly to the SM version popularised by Regardie's book) describes the sash as follows:

"... white bordered with gold with the emblems of the 5=6 grade embroidered in gold thereon, and also those of the 24th, 25th, and 26th paths attributed to this grade."

While the above description does not make it clear what these "emblems" are, it does show that they are all gold, whereas the popular rendition of the 5=6 sash employs a red cross, red 5 and 6, and no path numbers at all (which breaks the trend set by the Outer Order sashes, where the path numbers are all employed on the sash).

So where did the design for the more familiar version come from? It was part of Westcott's original designs for the Inner Order sashes, in a document entitled Second Order Insignia, dated to 22 June, 1892.

In this document, Westcott draws designs for the 5=6, 6=5, and 7=4 sashes, as well as outlining plans for the jewels of the 5=6 sub-grades. Those who achieved the sub-grade of Adept Adeptus Minor (and only this sub-grade, not any of the preceding ones) were to receive "a different sash to the ordinary 5=6 members," which was to be born crosswise over the ordinary 5=6 sash.

Westcott then proceeds to describe this sash for Adept Adeptus Minor, and, lo and behold, it is the 5=6 sash we are all familiar with. Of particular note is the employment of the colour red for the cross and numbers of the grade, "to show the link with Geburah."

Adept Adeptus Minor sash design by Westcott

This sash, therefore, is not incorrect, per se, but it is designed, at least originally, for those who have fully completed the 5=6 sub-grade curriculum, and are, as it were, candidates for the 6=5 grade, attributed to Geburah. Before then, at the lower sub-grade levels, the use of red upon the sash could be seen as somewhat jumping the gun.

As for the provenance of the design used for ordinary 5=6 members, it is possible it was created by Mathers, who wrote the Portal ceremony, and who would have clearly understood the importance of adding the numbers of the paths. Alternatively, it may have been designed years previously by Westcott. After all, there were those who were nominal 5=6 members before Mathers wrote the 5=6 ceremony, so it is possible the sashes were in use earlier than 1892.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Golden Dawn Books Galore

This month sees the release of several major books relating to the Golden Dawn, or of interest to Golden Dawn magicians. Check them out, and make sure to order your copies.

This book has earned wide acclaim across the GD community. For those of you interested in the Limited Hardback Edition, there are only a couple left for sale at Kerubim Press. Otherwise, you can order the paperback edition on Amazon here.

A long-awaited book showcasing the original Tarot designs of the Golden Dawn, along with other previously unreleased material. All in full colour. A must-have for those interested in both the historical and practical aspects of the Order. It can be ordered on Blurb here.

A new journal for the Western Mystery Tradition, edited by Nick Farrell. This issue contains articles by many well-known Golden Dawn magicians, including Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Aaron Leitch, Christine Zalewski, and Jayne Gibson, among many others. It can be ordered on Lulu here.

Wishing you all warm fraternal regards on this Autumnal Equinox.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Admission Badge: Greek Cubical Cross

To answer a question on the Golden Dawn Forum, I drew up the following image to show the placement of the Hebrew letters on the Greek Cubical Cross. I thought I'd share it here for others interested in where the letters go.

The image can be printed out, cut to shape (ensuring the blank squares are cut out) and then folded up to form the cross. This can then be used as a guide for painting a more solid construct.

The above placement, which the original Order used, has the three mother letters down the centre of the front, with Fire (Shin) above, Water (Mem) below, and the reconciling Air (Aleph) between them. The two letters on either side of this are the Moon (Gimel) on the left and the Sun (Resh) on the right.

The back of the cross has the remaining five letters related to the planets, while the 12 simple letters, relating to the zodiac, are placed around the sides.

To avoid confusion, note that some modern groups assign the letters differently.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Importance of the Past Hierophant

As a lodge-based system, the Golden Dawn is essentially crafted within the framework of Freemasonry, with an additional layer of magic placed upon those foundations. These Masonic roots are not hard to find, with everything from the officer structure to the grip, step and passwords of the grades stemming from earlier tradition.

Some of these elements have an obvious function, where their symbolic purpose and magical application was explained in detail. Others may appear to have no purpose at all, which has led to some modern magicians calling for them to be axed from the rituals. The Past Hierophant is the classic example of this.

On the surface, the Past Hierophant appears to do very little. He or she sits to the left of the Hierophant on the dais, watching the proceedings, contributing to the visualisations and inner workings of the ritual.

One important duty of the Past Hierophant is to build up the godform of Aroueris upon the Hierophant when he or she is moving (for the godform of Osiris never leaves the dais). 

However, the Past Hierophant is also important for another major reason. The entire Hall of the Neophyte is mapped to the lower half of the Tree of Life, making every placement symbolically and magically important. The dais officers are not mere observers, but mark the places of five paths, with Past Hierophant on the path of Nun.

This can be seen clearly in the floor plans that were given to members of the original Order and its offshoots. I include a sample of one of these surviving documents below, while Crowley gives a crude example in The Equinox.

This alone makes it pivotal that the office of Past Hierophant remain, because without this officer we would be axing a path on the Tree of Life. Reshuffling the other officers is no solution, because they stand on important paths of their own. There are five upon the dais for a reason.

Part of the beauty of the Golden Dawn system is that nothing is arbitrary. Everything has a purpose, and even though we may not know that purpose initially, with study and practice we may uncover it in time. The consistency and coherency of the system is dependent on every element within it, so moving or removing one can easily upset or unsettle the others, and lead to other repercussions.

For those interested in delving deeper into the Masonic roots of the Golden Dawn, I highly recommend getting a copy of Frater YShY's forthcoming book Adept Magic in the Golden Dawn Tradition, which includes some interesting material in this area. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Four-letter Names and the Four Directions

Many people wonder why the various names used in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram were chosen over other alternatives, particularly when it comes to a name like AGLA, a notariqon of Atah Gibor leh-Olam Adonai ("Thou art mighty forever, O Lord."), which appears to have largely been selected because it has four letters.

It is not difficult to understand the idea that since there are four directions, and thus there must be four names, that this motif would be continued in the formation of the names themselves. It is, after all, a continuation of the mystery of YHVH, the first name employed.

But there is another reason that these must be four-letter names. If we look at the Hebrew names for the four directions, we have the following: Mazrach (מזרח) for East, Darom (דרום) for South, Ma'arav (מערב) for West, and Tzaphon (צפון) for North.

The astute student will immediately notice that these are all four-letter names. Thus the most resonant names for the four directions should also have four letters, for it creates a sympathy between them that enhances their meaning and potency.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Occult Obsession

Obsession is something that occurs in all walks of like, but doubly so within the occult world, where there are many things to fixate upon, and many ways for the magician to lose control and end up being controlled by outside forces. Mathers and Westcott frequently issued warnings about this.

A student might, for example, feel a special affinity with a number. Let us say 10, since it is the number of Sephiroth. Then they might start to obsess about it, seeing it everywhere, and thinking there is some greater significance than that which they are affording to it from their own behaviour. They suddenly note that they stopped reading a book on page 10 (despite ignoring that they stopped on page 6 the night before), keep noticing the number 10 bus (despite ignoring all the hundreds of other numbered buses they encounter perhaps more frequently), and start to let the number rule their life. Then the occult meaning is irrelevant, as the true value of the relevant teachings of that number have been supplanted by a kind of paranoia.

Numbers are particular foci for people within the occult community, thanks to the importance of gematria (a system that is much abused, leading many occultists to force meaning where there is none). Someone may glance at the clock at 11:11 and think it significant, or they might stop on page 93 of a book and see it as a sign. In numerous cases, the more they appoint significance to these encounters, the more these encounters appear to happen (or, rather, the more they notice them, at the expense of noticing all the other numbers that are deemed less significant). 

This is particularly common with numbers that have strong esoteric associations, like the number 93 of Thelema. In answer to this, some have attempted to give the Golden Dawn a special number, employing 120 due to its Rosicrucian associations (Post 120 annos patebo), but I disagree strongly with the search for a single number of importance, when instead we should seek to learn from all of the numbers, and never be ruled by one of them.

This is why even meditation upon and skrying of symbols requires much care and many safety techniques. It might seem harmless at first to think of a special affinity with, for example, the symbol of Venus, but if it stops becoming a means to an end (the acquisition of greater knowledge and understanding), and instead becomes the end itself, the focus and fixture of the mind, it becomes a detriment more than a stepping stone to greater things.

Indeed, even a positive and protective symbol like the pentagram can be obsessed over, leading Moina Mathers to write: 

"Once the symbol has been clearly traced, it is better not to think of it too much; for the Neophyte ought not to permit himself to become obsessed by any Symbol."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Golden Dawn Motto Guidelines

A common question asked by those new to the Golden Dawn system is how to come up with a motto. While there is no step-by-step process, there are a few guidelines that Candidates might consider:

The first is that it should represent your spiritual/magical aspirations. Therefore, you should consider something positive, and consider something of an overarching goal. Your motto usually stays with you. For example, even when someone takes a new motto at 7=4, they still keep their 5=6 motto (at least within the context of an order).

The second is that it should be in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, or a similar language traditionally employed in the Mysteries. You should generally avoid a language you will be speaking every day. Latin is traditionally the preferred choice. It is ideal to keep the phrase short, with perhaps four or five words maximum (though a single word can also be used).

The third is that you should spend some time meditating on this, looking through dictionaries, directories of classical mottoes, etc. There is no one single right way to come across a relevant motto choice. Some people use established mottoes, which they might have read in a book or received from their family, while others translate a phrase themselves (which can be risky, depending on their knowledge of the language's grammar).

The fourth is that the motto is a personal choice. It should therefore be chosen by you, not anyone else. I am aware that at least one GD order chooses mottoes for people, but this is certainly not traditional, and, in my opinion, certainly not recommended. No matter what grade someone is, they have no right to decide what your aspirations should be.

The fifth follows on from the fourth, in that the motto should be chosen for its applicability, not to emulate another magician. Some people pick a well known motto used by Crowley, for example, but this somewhat diminishes their own persona, since they are identifying too much with another magician. It does not matter how good a previous magician was—we are here to forge our own paths. This said, it is possible to accidentally pick the same, or a similar, motto to a lesser known member of the Order, and this is fine, since it was not a deliberate choice to emulate that person, and the fact that they are less well known will limit the possibility of people thinking of that person when they hear your motto.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Origin of the Unicursal Hexagram

The Unicursal Hexagram is widely believed to have been created by Aleister Crowley, but the reality is that it is a form introduced in a paper called Polygons and Polygrams, one of seven papers given out in the 4=7 grade of the Golden Dawn. Regardie did not publish this in its entirety, so it is not surprising there is some confusion, but the nature of this symbol according to the Golden Dawn is a bit different to what many Thelemites turned it into.

As the image shows, this is not just another way to draw a standard hexagram, allowing for a single united line, but rather a symbol that denotes something entirely different. It is arguably more alchemical than planetary.

It is classified as the third form of the hexangle and is called the "pseudo-hexagram" or "irregular third form." Its description is: "Denotes the presidency of the Sun and Moon over the Four Elements, united in, and proceeding from, the Spirit."

It is not, therefore, a good replacement for the hexagrams used in the Ritual of the Hexagram, as the only planets concerned are the Sun and Moon, and the Sun is no longer the central focus point, but an opposing force to the Moon, which is its sister and twin.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Zodiac Colour Wheel

While going through some of my Golden Dawn papers I came across a diagram of two interlaced hexagrams, which show how the colours of the Zodiac signs are obtained. I have reproduced this here so that others wondering why, for example, Scorpio is "green-blue" can see the pattern.

This diagram needs some explanation. The colours of the planets do not entirely match the Golden Dawn's system, either for the King or Queen Scales of either the planets themselves or the Sephiroth to which they are attributed. The problematic ones are Saturn (typically indigo, or if we take the colour of its Sephirah, black), Jupiter (typically violet, though blue is applicable to its Sephirah), Mercury (typically yellow, though orange is applicable to its Sephirah), and Sol (typically orange, though yellow is applicable to its Sephirah). These planetary colours appear largely drawn from the Greater Key of Solomon.

Once we appoint six signs to the planets (Mercury to Gemini, for example), we then have the basic colours in place. The remaining six signs are simply combinations of the two colours on either side. For example, Taurus is between Aries (red) and Gemini (orange), and thus its colour is red-orange.

There are some other names used for some of these combinations, such as indigo for Capricorn, but this is a combination of violet and blue. Likewise, crimson (or ultra-violet crimson) for Pisces is a combination of red and violet, while amber for Cancer is a combination of orange and yellow. 

While the Golden Dawn has not done so, we could arguably call all the mixed colours by another name. For example, the red-orange of Taurus is peach. The yellow-green of Virgo is lime. The green-blue of Scorpio is aquamarine. However, it is easier to remember the colours as combinations of the two colours on either side than a more fancy name.

Most of these match very nicely, but not all appear to match the Golden Dawn's colour scales. Unless the colour scales in Regardie's book contain errors (which is certainly a possibility, and I have not had time to compare them to original documents yet), there is one sign that doesn't add up. Leo is yellow on this colour wheel, but greening-yellow in the King Scale. Everything else appears to largely match.

Please note that the colours displayed in the diagram may differ on your monitor or might not match your definition of the colour. It is provided for illustration only.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Gradations of Adepthood

The word Adept brings a lot to mind, so much so that I believe it necessary to clarify some things regarding Adepts in the Golden Dawn system.

Firstly, using the word Adept on its own is a bit of a misnomer, for the Golden Dawn classified Adepts based on just how much they knew and could do (within the context of the system). Those who are advanced to 5=6 were Adepti Minores, which shows that they are Lesser Adepts, in much the same way there is a Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram before the Supreme Ritual is taught.

Only at 6=5 is an initiate an Adeptus Major and only at 7=4 is he or she an Adeptus Exemptus.

Yet within these lofty grades are a set of sub-grades, which specify even further the level of the initiate. For example, in 5=6 we have the Neophyte Adeptus Minor, Zelator Adeptus Minor, Theoricus Adeptus Minor, Practicus Adeptus Minor, Philosophus Adeptus Minor, and finally Adept Adeptus Minor. All of that is before 6=5 is even approached.

Of course, historically the Order collapsed before anything beyond Theoricus Adeptus Minor was created, and both the Stella Matutina and later Alpha et Omega abolished the sub-grades and moved material to higher grades. Many modern orders, however, have restored these sub-grades and implemented relevant teachings.

The beauty of the sub-grades, beyond the fact that they are useful divisions of content, is that they are somewhat humbling. The new Adept not only has to remind him or herself that he or she is just an Adeptus Minor, but a Neophyte Adeptus Minor. He or she is "newly planted" once more and very much a beginner in the new material he or she will be learning and practising.

The process extends further into 6=5 and 7=4, where the sub-grades may also be employed. Some groups keep these as single grades, but there appears to be some evidence to suggest the Alpha et Omega, at least, adopted sub-grades at these levels in its early years, suggesting this was the intended structure for the Golden Dawn as well.

Thus, when the Adept, who recognises that he or she is a Lesser Adept, has gone through the process of Neophyte to Philosophus within this first Adept grade, and now dons the title of Adept Adeptus Minor, he or she is now faced with being "newly planted" all over again as a Neophyte Adeptus Major. Further still, when the sub-grades of that grade are undergone, it begins again with Neophyte Adeptus Exemptus.

This might seem like an overly complex way of doing things, but it does show that Adepthood is just the beginning, in much the same way a black belt in a martial art is. The Outer Order is preparatory, while entry into the 5=6 does not mark achievement, per se, but rather the start of the quest in earnest towards that achievement.

Thus, when we speak of Adepts in the Golden Dawn system, we might be discussing very different things, or people at very different levels. This does not even take into consideration the vast differences between people, their experiences, their skills, and how dedicated or not they are to the Great Work. All of these factors make for very different Adepts at very different stages of their magical maturity, and even the grade structure itself, evocative as it is, is merely symbolic of spiritual progress that cannot be so easily defined.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mediums and the Golden Dawn, Part 2

Last year I explored the official view of the Order, spanning several decades, on the topic of mediums, one of the few areas of spiritual practice that was overtly prohibited by the founders of the Golden Dawn.

In fact, while Mathers and Westcott disliked certain other groups (the Lake Harris school, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Rose Croix of Sir Peladan, for example), the Order took a stauncher view on mediumship and related practises, so much so that it became part of the Oath every initiate had to take.

Here I will share some more examples of the Order's views on mediums, which might help clarify the matter and show that it was not a view taken lightly, nor was it only held for a certain period of time or by just one or two people in the Order.

The first example is from Dr. William Berridge, who shows the Order's dislike of mediumship in one of his illustrations of experiences he had:

"A lady, hoping to develop herself spiritually had allowed herself to become passively mediumistic, and her health began to fail.
"On one occasion, feeling very weak, she asked me to mesmerise her. I availed myself of this opportunity, and while apparently only making mesmeric passes over her I occultly surrounded her with a protective aura as in my own case. The result was successful, she improved in strength, and, as a well-known student of occultism observed to me, she looked more human; and with all this, her mediumistic experiences ceased. Had she followed my advice, and held herself positive; I believe she would have fully recovered her health and strength; but she again drifted back into her former condition of passive mediumship, her health broke down, and after a lingering illness, she died."
— Flying Roll V, Some Thoughts on Imagination (Berridge)

Interestingly, Berridge's method of helping the medium in this case was to "mesmerise her." Of course, it does not state that he ever allowed himself to be mesmerised himself, which would have been a violation of the Oath. Berridge's account clearly shows that mediumship was considered dangerous, so much so that it was thought to cause illness and death in this case, despite his efforts to help her cultivate a more active control of her existence.

P.W. Bullock also briefly highlights the views of mediumship as being the opposite of the magical path, since they are passive rather than active, negative rather than positive.

"It will be seen upon consideration that every thought which is creative and positive (as distinct from a passive and mediumistic reflex) must contain, as it were, within itself the complement and completion thereof, i.e. Intuition."
— Flying Roll XXVII, The Principia of Theurgia or the Higher Magic (Bullock)

Mathers was quite clear about his disapproval of mediumship, even warning members to avoid self-hypnosis when performing skrying, since this would open the magician to becoming overly passive. He encouraged members to retain active control of their practises and experiences:

"In using Symbols it is necessary to avoid self hypnotisation, for this occurrence would dispose you to mediumship, and to be the playground of forces you must control, and not permit to control you."
— Flying Roll XI, Clairvoyance (Mathers)

Again Mathers speaks out against self-hypnosis, highlighting the dangers caused by such an approach, which include deception and obsession:

"He or she who is operating should avoid carefully any self hypnotisation by the Tattva, for this will simply lead to foolish and hysteric visions, the offspring of the intoxication of the Operator’s astral sphere by the Tattva."
— Flying Roll XXX, Tattwas and Skrying and Hierophant’s Making 0=0 Signs (Mathers)

For those thinking this was just a focus of Mathers, it is important to note that Westcott fully agreed with him about the dangers of mediumship and the negative or passive atitude:

"So long as you lead an ordinary life you are safe from the assaults of influences beyond the material world of your brother men; but as soon as you get outside of that world and put yourself in a position to seek out occult mysteries, you bring yourself under the action of forces of which you know very little or nothing. The only way to avoid being controlled by such forces, to which you have rendered yourself liable, is to preserve what we call the positive attitude, which is the extreme contrast to what is called mediumship. A medium is one who cultivates negativity and such a person is therefore one to be avoided. The condition we want you to cultivate is that of positivity. I could give you a very good example of a person who is negative and who has got into trouble almost entirely through that."
— Flying Roll IXI, The Aims and Means of Adeptship (Westcott)

Unfortunately Westcott never gives the example, so we do not know who or what he was referring to, but clearly the founders and members were seeing first-hand some of the disastrous effects of such a passive approach to spiritual experience, which is, as he says "the extreme contrast" of the magical approach, where the magician retains active control.

For those thinking the Order changed its mind on this after a period, let us consider the following quote from Monia Mathers, dated July 1926, nearly three decades after the founding of the Order:

"Regarding seers and mediums, as before remarked, our school lays great stress on the simultaneous development of, crudely speaking, the three planes of being, which development must precede psychic experiment. The methods employed to equilibrate the nature entail considerable study, time and patience. There is no royal road to any science, let alone the science of the occult. Before touching such experiments as obtain in spiritualism, the student would be supposed to be in a measure aware of the nature of the entities he would be likely to encounter, and especially to have some idea of the constitution of Man. When this is achieved he will be equipped and enabled to face the many dangers and difficulties he will encounter in the invisible world.
"Spiritualism is distinctly a Western movement and has certainly been the means of bringing conviction of the after life to many. The methods employed by spiritualists may be very dangerous, in that they frequently lack the preliminary preparation and knowledge necessary before approaching psychic phenomena. The spiritualist who lacks this specialized knowledge must be prepared to encounter all the dangers which explorers in unknown lands are beset. He who enters into these regions has sometimes found it easier to open the door than to close it."
— Moina Mathers, Introduction to The Kabbalah Unveiled (July, 1926)

Ritual V, on the Microcosm, states:

"And this is the reason why there are so many and multifarious errors in untrained spirit visions. For the untrained seer, even supposing him free from the delusions of obsession, doth not know or understand how to unite his consciousnesses and the harmonies between his own sphere of sensation, and the universe, the Macrocosmos. Therefore is it so necessary that the Adeptus Minor should correctly understand the principia and axiomata of our secret knowledge, which are contained in our Rituals and Lectures."

Here it is clear that the Order greatly values and encourages that anyone working with visions or related psychic phenomena is fully trained, to avoid delusion, obsession, and other dangers. The medium, lacking such training, qualifies as an "untrained seer."

In an Order paper providing some description of the meaning of the Tarot cards, we find the following for The Lovers:

"Inspiration (passive and in some cases mediumistic, thus differing from that of the Hierophant and Magician and Hermit.)"

Here we see a direct contrast between the mediumistic approach of passive inspiration to that of the Hierophant, Magician and Hermit, the latter three being cards distinctly tied with the active approach of the magician in the Golden Dawn system, and further representing the Three Magi.

It should be clear by this stage that mediumship was not approved of in the Order, a fact that has been stated numerous times by scholars and historians (see, for example, page 33 of R.A. Gilbert's The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians). This is not to say that the Order disapproved of psychic activity in general (such as skrying and clairvoyance), as it clearly taught and encouraged this, when the initiate was ready for it and properly trained. 

The magical path, however, is a very different one to the passive path of the medium, and the wise magician prepares with theory, arms with knowledge, tests with the Divine Names, signs and symbols, and retains active control of all voyages in unknown territory, lest he or she be lost in a sea of illusion or delusion, or hand over power to other people or other beings, and so lose that which makes them human, and that which might help them better come to know and understand the divine.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eleven Rosicrucian Rules

(An excerpt from the book S.R.I.A. Manual by Dr. George Winslow Plummer, published in 1923.)

1. Love God above all. To "love God" means to love wisdom and truth. We can love God in no other way than in being obedient to Divine law; and to enable us to exercise that obedience conscientiously requires knowledge of the law, which can only be gained by practice. 

2. Devote your time to your spiritual advancement. As the sun without leaving his place in the sky sends his rays upon the earth to shine upon the pure and the impure, and to illuminate even the most minute material objects with his light; likewise the spirit of man may send his mental rays into matter to obtain knowledge of all terrestrial things; but there is no need that the spirit should thereby lose its own divine self-consciousness, and be itself absorbed by the objects of its perception.

3. Be entirely unselfish. Spiritual knowledge begins only where all sense of self ceases. Where the delusion which causes man to imagine himself to be a being separated and isolated from others ends, there he begins to realize his true state as an all-embracing universal and divine self conscious power.

4. Be temperate, modest, energetic, and silent. The door to the inner temple is called "Contentment"; but no animal can enter therein, only he who walks uprightly, being conscious of his true dignity as a human being. Without energy, nothing can be accomplished; and only in the silence, when all thoughts and desires are at rest, can the Divine harmonies penetrate to the internal ear.

5. Learn to know the origin of the Metals contained within thyself. Ignorance is the cause of suffering. That which is material must be crucified and die, so that that which is spiritual may be resurrected and live.

6. Beware of quacks and pretenders. He who claims to be in possession of knowledge knows nothing; only he through whom the Word of wisdom speaks is wise.

7. Live in constant adoration of the highest good. The worm seeks for pleasure among abomination and filth; but the free eagle spreads his wings and rises up towards the sun.

8. Learn the theory before you attempt the practice. He who travels with a trustworthy guide will be safer than he who refuses to profit by the experience of another.

9. Exercise charity towards all beings. All beings are one in the spirit; divided from each other merely by the illusion of form. He who is charitable towards another form in which the universal One Life is manifest, saves suffering to his own self.

10. Read the ancient books of wisdom. Books are to the unripe mind that which the mother's milk is to the nursling. We must receive drink from others until we have gained sufficient strength and experience to descend to the living fountain within ourselves, and to draw from there the water of truth.

11. Try to understand their secret meaning. That which is external may be seen with the external eye; but that which is spiritual can only be seen with the eye of the spirit.

These are the eleven rules which ought to be followed by those who desire to enter the temple of the Rosy Cross; but the Rosicrucians have a twelfth rule, an Arcanum, in which great powers reside, but of which it is not lawful to speak. This Arcanum will be given to those who deserve it, and by its aid they will find light in the darkness, and a guiding hand through the labyrinth. This Arcanum is inexpressible in the language of mortals, and it can, therefore, only be communicated from heart to heart. There is no torture enough to extract it from the true Rosicrucian; for even if he were willing to reveal it, those who are unworthy of it are not capable of receiving it.

[Originally posted by Sandra Tabatha Cicero on the Societas Rosicruciana in America blog here.]

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Ancient and Honourable Order of the Golden Dawn


The Ancient and Honourable Order of the Golden Dawn officially unveiled itself today with the launch of its new website, which highlights its goals and approach to the teachings and tradition of the Golden Dawn.

The Order currently operates the Dublin Temple, which was officially founded on Summer Solstice 2009. Since then it has flourished, offering candidates a traditional experience of the Golden Dawn, with the original rituals and teachings of the Order.

More Temples are expected to open over time.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Announcing Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls

31 May 2013—Dublin, Ireland—KERUBIM PRESS has announced the imminent release of its latest esoteric title, Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls by the Golden Dawn Community (ISBN 978-1-908705-07-5), due to launch on 14 June 2013.

The book weighs in at 440 pages, packed not only with all 36 Flying Rolls (including rare material), but with additional magical teachings, historical insights, and commentaries from members of a variety of modern Golden Dawn orders, including well-known authors like Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Aaron Leitch, Nick Farrell and Peregrin Wildoak.

Anyone working with the Golden Dawn system of magic, and, indeed, anyone working in the Western Mystery Tradition as a whole, will find this an indispensible addition to their bookshelves.

Check out the back cover description:

This book contains the 36 pivotal papers given to Adepts in the original Golden Dawn order, providing key insights and instructions into the theory and practice of magic, from theurgy, imagination and symbolism to clairvoyance, divination and telesmatic images. For the first time these texts are brought together in a single printed volume, along with some rare administrative versions that were all but ignored by modern eyes. 

In addition, extensive and insightful commentaries from modern Golden Dawn magicians from a variety of orders are here provided, adding to the corpus of teaching provided in the Flying Rolls themselves. 

The contributors to this book include: 

Frater A.M., Frater AR, Deanna Bonds, Christopher Bradford, Chic Cicero, Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Ian Cowburn, Morgan Drake Eckstein, Nick Farrell, Paola Farrell, Lauren Gardner, Jayne Gibson, Frater Goya, VH Frater IOV, Aaron Leitch, Liza Llewellyn, Joseph Max, Frater Philomancer, VH Soror QQDAM, Samuel Scarborough, Eric V. Sisco, Rachael Walker, Sam Webster, Harry Wendrich, Peregrin Wildoak, Frater Yechidah, Frater YShY

The book will retail for $29.99, £19.99, €24.99, or AU$29.99. It will be available through all major online bookstores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Book Depository. Bookstores are welcome to contact Kerubim Press to inquire about wholesale options.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Riddle of the Tattvas

The Tattvas have long appeared to be the most unorthodox aspect of the Golden Dawn system, clashing quite obviously (at least on the surface) with the rest of the Order's Western-leaning teachings. The shapes and colours don't seem to fit, and it seems readily apparent to many that there are other, perhaps better, alternatives.

And here is where we need to be careful, because it is this kind of reasoning that can hold us back, can hinder us from actually learning something new. Not all is clean-cut on the esoteric path, and we are frequently forced to reconcile opposing ideas and balance seemingly contradictory thoughts.

First, let us explore the tattvas from a historical perspective. Many Golden Dawn members were also members of the early school of Theosophy when it was more Western focused. They were also exposed to Eastern teachings, some of which were mentioned in passing in various Golden Dawn documents, often as ways to help better explain Western material.

But why did the Golden Dawn use the tattvas and not other Eastern material? If it was simply an issue of them being new and intriguing, it begs the question why so many other new and intriguing ideas from across the globe were not embraced. Surely their introduction was less because of their general appeal and more because they actually fit into the system.

But how do they fit? Prithivi is a yellow square and relates to Earth. The square aspect matches Western associations, thanks to the Platonic solid of the cube, but the colour yellow would suggest, in the Golden Dawn, the element of Air. Likewise, the blue circle of Vayu would suggest Water, but is actually Air, and the black egg would suggest Earth, but is actually Spirit. Only the red triangle of Tejas appears to match other Golden Dawn associations, while the silver crescent of Apas does bring to mind the lunar connection of Water.

So then we have incongruence, and here is part of the beauty of this system within the carefully ordered material of the Golden Dawn. When these are skryed, the magician is instantly faced with, in most cases, preconceptions based on the colour and shape of the objects, which could easily provide a false vision. Yet because their real associations are often starkly different, it is generally easier to notice these illusions. For example, if the magician were to skry Prithivi and be greeted with Air-related imagery, then he or she immediately knows that the vision is not reliable. So, in a sense, the Tattvas provide an additional testing mechanism by the pure fact that they do not so easily match the correspondences Golden Dawn magicians have previously learned.

However, there is more to these than that. My personal experience suggests the Tattvas are tamer in nature than many other symbols, despite their elemental associations. They appear to cause less astral strain, and the energy involved is gentler than, for example, the four alchemical triangles that magicians in the West are more familiar with. The colours match more closely the Queen Scale, and thus work on a lower level than the King Scale colours we are perhaps more familiar with. Therefore, the Tattvas present a good introduction to the art of skrying that is less likely to result in dangerous situations for those new to the technique.

That raises the question why Mathers never advocated skrying the four elemental triangles. The Neophyte learns of these triangles, and they become an essential part of magical teaching and tradition. I agreed for many years with others who suggested these symbols were more appropriate, but I have come to learn differently over time. It was not like Mathers was not aware of them. They appear to be the most logical symbols to use, and yet he chose not to. There must be a reason for this apparent oversight.

The reason for this can be better understood when we look at the following passage in the original paper on the Hexagram Ritual:

"Remember also that the triangle if apex downward is an extremely evil and hurtful symbol and it is for this reason that these symbols of the elements [fire triangle, water triangle, air triangle, earth triangle] are not usually traced as Sigils, but are replaced with the Cherubic emblems of Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius and Taurus."

One will note that in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram the inverted triangle is only employed in conjunction with an upright triangle, unless in very rare circumstances as a double inverted triangle for use in workings with evil forces, largely beyond the scope of the Zelator Adeptus Minor.

What this reveals, however, is that the inverted triangle, employed as the symbol of Water, is considered evil, and thus also we may consider the inverted triangle with line employed as the symbol of Earth. Thus, if we were to skry these, we would be working with evil symbols. This would go a long way to explaining the harsher energy and more straining nature I have personally experienced with these symbols. It would also explain why these familiar symbols were not employed for skrying, with the Tattvas taking their place.

It is not difficult to see why Mathers advised against using an inverted triangle. The upright triangle is, after all, one of the primary symbols of the Order and that which we aspire to, the Supernal Triad. When inverted it is similar to the pentagram, putting Kether below Chokmah and Binah, and, in effect, marking the Fall. The symbols on the altar also relate to this, for while the inverted triangle is employed, the Cross is never placed below it, for that would be the symbol of the Order entirely overturned. 

Of course, the Vault walls do employ the inverted Water triangle, but note that it is balanced by the upright Fire triangle, and between them is the reconciling symbol of Air. Note also the absence of the Earth Triangle, the very emblem of that which has Fallen.

There is much in this worth careful study, but this is sufficient for understanding the place of the Tattvas in the Golden Dawn system, and why also we should look deeper into why the pieces of the system were designed in this way.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Prison of the Planets

It is five years to the day since I posted on my Gnostic blog Henosis Decanus about the relation of the planets to the Archons of Gnostic mythology. I was recently asked what my thoughts on this are after all these years, so let us explore this idea a little deeper.

In the esoteric world we are often seen as being tied to the forces of our birth charts. Our strengths and weaknesses, our high points and low points, our ideals and aims, what drives us and holds us back, are all mapped out before us like an oracle, like the foretelling of our doom. 

Indeed, it is often the case that many occultists will blame their chart for their problems, admitting a kind of fatalist thinking, where who and what we are is already decided, and cannot be deviated from.

This is, in my opinion, an unacceptable approach for a magician, and certainly for a Gnostic. An adept who blames exterior forces for his or her problems is an adept hoping to escape responsibility, and thus this shows a magical immaturity which is not congruent with adepthood.

Those who seek to escape responsibility enter a greater prison of the mind and soul, handing over the keys to their being to a force or power undeserving of them. We study astrology not merely to find out who we are and are likely to be, but so that we can redirect the forces and powers to create ourselves as we see fit, knowing that the road carved out before us is not the road we necessarily have to travel.

When we climb the Tree of Life we encounter the planets in turn. The Golden Dawn's grade structure is built upon this. The subtle suggestion is that as the Theoricus gains the secrets of Yesod, he or she gains mastery over the Moon, and is thus free from her reign. Of course, we talk of the real initiation, not merely the grade attained within an order, and this is far more likely to occur in the sub-grades of Adeptus Minor or above than in the Outer Order.

So if, from a Gnostic perspective, climbing the Tree of Life allows us to gain freedom from the Archons of the planets, what happens when, in the case of the Golden Dawn, the attainable human grades stop at 7=4? Here there is a mystery, for the only remaining of the old planets is Saturn in Binah, and Saturn is the Demiurge—Saturn is Death and the bondage of mortality.

So, in one sense, there is no escaping the Demiurge for any of us, for we must all answer the call of death, but in another, far greater sense, this is the ultimate freedom, the loosening of the shackles of mortality, knowing in our mind, heart and soul that we are undying. This is the Elixir of Life, the Philosopher's Stone, that which the alchemists of old have strived for and which the complete adept attains.

Chokmah is linked with the wheel of the Zodiac, showing that even after escaping the seven jails, there is an outer wall that must be climbed. Yet even then there is Kether and the Gilgulim, the reincarnation of the soul, which is, from one perspective, another prison, similar to the samsara of the Buddhists. One freedom is, as it were, another prison, yet ultimately it is in Kether that we experience unity, and so if in there we find the jailkeeper, in there we also find the key.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Angels and Men

"The angels aspire to become men, for the perfect man,
the man-God, is above every angel."

— Eliphas Levi

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Ruby Tablet, Vol. I, No. 5

Issue 5 of The Ruby Tablet, compiled and edited by Golden Dawn scholar Darcy Kuntz, has been released. Check it out and donate if you like the material.


The Rosy Cross in Russia Part 1 by A Russian
Golden Dawn Research Trust
The Rosy Cross in Russia Part 2 by A Russian
Kerubim Press
The Conjuration of Kronos by Frater Achad
The Twelve Angels of the Zodiac
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Books
Laws of the Brotherhood of the Rosicrucians
The Mystery of the Lords Prayer
Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn
Pasquales and his Elus Cohen by Sendivogius
Skylight Press
Astral Origins of the Zodic Signs
The Ineffable Name by A[lexander] W[ilder]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Magic and Failure

In an interesting blog post Nick Farrell asked a pivotal, and yet frequently ignored, question about why some magic fails. He cited a number of reasons people have given over time, including classic cop-outs like God or your Higher Self saying no, and the more acceptable notion of psychological blocks.

On the first topic, I do not personally believe that God or the Higher Self would refuse a request. This might be an acceptable idea in a devotional school of thought, but magicians do not simply go with the flow—they create and direct the flow. A magician is an active player in the universe, one who takes responsibility for his or her life. If a ritual for a job is performed and it does not work, then the magician cannot simply blame God and accept this as "the way it is meant to be." Such fatalistic thinking has no place in magic.

So if external forces are not stopping us, that leaves internal forces. In many ways we are our own worst enemies, and part of the process of the Golden Dawn system is to tear down the poorly built construct enforced on us by society, our own Tower of Babalon, and build in place something with a stronger foundation, a "self" designed and moulded by us as we see fit. Of course, this is no easy task, and this is why we employ powerful occult symbolism and forces to give us an advantage in the battle with our own minds.

When a ritual fails, then, there is certainly an element of us blocking the result. We might wonder why any of us would block a result like winning the lottery, but these are usually deeply rooted subconscious blocks, the kinds of things people spend their entire lives trying to sort out, while others remain oblivious to them. Feelings of guilt or inadequacy could unearth the seeds of prosperity that are sown in a ritual, while doubt and frustration, and even the "lust for results" can cause a constant blight upon them.

Nick raised the point that this explains why his own ritual for himself might fail, but why does a ritual performed by another magician for him also fail? The same issues apply, but there are additional factors. Firstly, the manifestation is sought within person X's life, so it does not matter whether person X or person Y does the magic; it still has to go through the conduit of person X's world, where it can be assailed by all the various destructive elements of his or her psyche. And even if it manages to bypass these, person X might be in such a negative mindset in regard to the desired outcome that he or she could actually be ignoring the opportunities that are arising as a result of the magic done.

Let us use an example to drive this point home. If Bob does a ritual for wealth, but is unsuccessful, and then asks for the help of Jane, but then Bob refuses to accept a job offer or go to that social event where he would have met millionaire Tom, the issue is not that the magic has not worked, but that the resulting opportunities have not been taken. This might be through the same feelings of inadequacy that stopped Bob's ritual from working in the first place, or Bob might be so immersed in his financial issues that he not only does not see a way out, but his frustration blinds him to any doors being opened to him.

Of course, the problem with this idea is that it is hard to prove, because we do not know for certain what would have happened if any available avenue was taken. Attending the party might have led to Bob meeting Tom, but there is no guaranteeing they would have become friends, or that Tom would have offered Bob a job or paid off his debt. Missed opportunities are generally, by their very definition, things that have slipped under the radar, so it easier to simply think a ritual has not worked.

There is also the issue of whether or not a ritual should be left to its own devices or constantly reinforced. While there are various schools of thought on this, I think a middle ground approach is the most effective. When a ritual is performed, there is a "gestation" period immediately after, and ideally the magician has set a time frame for the result to become manifest, by which time he or she can judge if it has succeeded or failed. During this period it is important to let things happen, not constantly check to see if they are happening. This is the "To Keep Silent" part of the Powers of the Sphinx. The reason for this is that we performed the ritual in our magical mindset, but we usually "check in" later with our mundane mindset, which has the tendency to question, doubt and otherwise undermine our efforts. The fact that we need to check at all means we are unsure if it is really doing the job, so immediately we are smothering the seeds with doubt, or prodding at the earth with questions, potentially unearthing the seeds completely.

To balance this approach, however, we need to consider that once the gestation period is up, and if the desired outcome has not manifested, it is senseless to simply give up. The ritual, a variant, or something new entirely should be employed. If the desired outcome is monumental, then we must make an investment on a similarly large scale, potentially a long-term magical operation. Perseverance is the key to success in any aspect of life. Those who stop climbing the mountain halfway up will never reach the summit.

In the end the elaborate rituals we employ are largely designed to bypass the parts of ourselves that doubt our abilities or attempt to hold us back. Instead of using language like "I deserve X," we employ symbolic language that does this on a much more primal level, tapping into the very essence of not only our own being, but that of the universe at large. There such seeds can grow into manifest results, in much the same way we consider the Four World of the Qabalah in the formation of things from archetypal concepts to the World of Action.

The magician therefore needs to want the result more than they doubt or fear it. Then they must will it to happen with an appropriate level of investment for the scale of the result sought. Then they must not recall the line that has been thrown before the fish has a chance to bite, yet they must also provide a bait, and this is the creation of an environment where the opportunities of success can occur.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hermetic Virtues, Vol. 6, No. 1

Hermetic Virtues has entered its sixth year, publishing articles on the Golden Dawn and general esoteric ideas and teachings from well-known magicians in the field. Check out the contents of the latest issue:

+ The Alchemical Hexagram by Chic and Tabatha Cicero
+ The Emperor by Harry Wendrich
+ The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet - A book review by Aaron Leitch
+ Group Work - an unpublished Whare Ra document - Mrs. Felkin with a commentary by Nick Farrell
+ Hidden Treasures of the Golden Dawn - A book review by Samuel Scarborough
+ Invocation of the Powers of Aquarius by Jayne Gibson
+ Astrological Magic - A book review by Samuel Scarborough
+ Becoming the Star Child by Nick Farrell
+ An Invocation of Kether by Samuel Scarborough

You can order a copy here.