Mishkan ha-Echad

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Golden Dawn Bashing


It has become increasingly more popular over the last decade or so to bash the Golden Dawn, its members, and its teachings, with Dee purists, Thelemites, grimoire buffs, and the historical and magickal "elite" all joining in to take a stab. In fact, it has become so popular that some people feel they must jump on the band wagon (without understanding any of the genuine criticisms of the Golden Dawn) or be considered magickally deficient, or a slave to the dogma and "propaganda" (one person I discussed this recently with considered published Golden Dawn rituals and papers to be propaganda) of this esoteric organisation.

Firstly we have the Dee purists. Now, I have studied the original Enochian material, and have utilised much of it in my previous Order, but I think there are pros as well as cons to the Golden Dawn approach. Fair enough that many people will want to use solely the original material. After all, several things have been altered or omitted, such as the different Golden Dawn method for prefixing names with letters from the Tablet of Union or Black Cross. However, the sheer volume of times that I see many Dee purists chime in on a discussion where someone asks an Enochian question and is given a Golden Dawn-ised answer, to scoff and raise (yet again) the fact that this is the Golden Dawn approach and not necessarily the original material, and to point out how inferior the former is to the latter, and to highlight how superior they themselves are for knowing this, is unbelievable. It seems to be common practice to want to take a jab at the Golden Dawn, and, to be honest, many people already know that they got stuff wrong, and that their Enochian isn't the same as the original material, so, to me, it just looks like these "critics" are kicking the Order while it's down, jumping on the band wagon of opportunity, whose only destination is smugness and narcissism.

Secondly we have the Thelemites. One element of Thelemic theology revolves around the notion of the New Aeon, that of Horus, which renders obsolete the Aeon of Osiris, the dying and ressurecting god, who is the motif of both the Golden Dawn system and the Christian religion. Personally I believe in the New Aeon, but I don't believe it does or should invalidate anything that we have previously used. To be fair to many Thelemites, they do not utilise this argument as a basis to bash the Golden Dawn. However, there are many opportunists who will, whether they are Thelemites or not (some just like to steal the idea of the New Aeon to support their bile), decide quite emphatically that not only is the Golden Dawn obsolete, but that it is corrupt, a magickal scourge in the wider community of occultism, and thus every single element of Golden Dawn material and teaching must be eliminated.

This kind of reasoning (if it can be called such at all) is inherently flawed for Thelemites, given much of their system is dependant on Golden Dawn teachings (it's hard to shake off all of those influences, no matter how hard Thelemites try), but for some people who utilise this attack it becomes more of a slur like those levelled at Christianity (often by the same people). It's the kind of mentality that gives rise to beliefs like "there would be no war if there was no religion", an imbicilic idealist notion that merely shows how little thought was given to their vitriol. Indeed, some people criticise the Golden Dawn specifically because of its Christian elements, particularly the Inner Order, and this is just an extension of the widespread (and significantly more popular) Christian bashing that occurs in our cynical world. For my defence of Christianity and religion in general, see this older post on my other blog.

There are also those who will point out that the Golden Dawn utilised material that already existed, such as Agrippa and Levi, as if this fact is somehow a bad thing, or means that they contributed nothing of their own. One of the unique things the Golden Dawn did was the collecting and synthesising of these various sources into a single, workable, dynamic tradition, a tradition that drew on as much Western material as they could get their hands on, thereby becoming a definitive expression of Western occultism that would last for decades (as we can clearly see from its widespread use even today).

Others will point out that the Golden Dawn destroyed the true spirit of the sources they drew upon (Enochian comes to mind here), and that we should try to go "back in time" to those older traditions, traditions, these people argue, that were stronger and more magickally potent than the Golden Dawn's methods are. There is a certain amount of truth to this, as we can see from the Qabalah and Enochian, to name but two examples, but the problem with this type of argument is that it attempts to look for the "pure" tradition, free from outside influences, when, in fact, there often isn't any "pure" tradition. The Qabalah, for example, has some Gnostic inlfuences (particularly the Lurianic school), the 32 Paths of Wisdom was a later addition to the Sepher Yetzirah, the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy is now seen as not having been written by Agrippa, and those who used the grimoires in the Renaissance added new material and changed methods, etc. to those that wrote and used those grimoires in the Middle Ages. Tradition isn't something that remains static. It's a dynamic, living, growing thing (see here for more of my thoughts on this). This is like when people argue about the English invading Ireland, corrupting and polluting the Celtic gene, as if the Celts had not invaded many centuries before. What we consider to be pure now is a corruption of the purity that came before, which, likewise, is a degradation of the purity before that, and so forth, forever and ever, unto the ends of the earth.

Some people will point out the forgeries of the Sprengel letters, the politics, strife, and splits of the Order, and the fact that the original Order didn't last very long, and these people will use this as "proof" that the Order is immoral, unsuitable, "old school", or fundamentally flawed, and thus should not be utilised. This is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Order politics is in the realm of Order instituion and the dynamics of clashing personalities, and has little reflection on the teachings of the Order itself, which are designed to elevate beyond both the institution and the individual personalities of those involved. The funny thing about these arguments is that often these people criticise the fact that some members of Orders have arguments, and at the same time these people are arguing about the validity of the Golden Dawn system with others. I won't go into much detail about the forgery issue, nor indeed Order politics (I will deal with these in future posts), but sufficed to say, these things occur in every human organisation, and they do not automatically render the system invalid or corrupt, but merely betrays the reality that flawed, imperfect humans are in charge.

Now, obviously I'm a Golden Dawn man (to use Regardie's phrase), so I am somewhat biased. However, I don't believe that makes me a slave to dogma, nor do I believe using Christian mythology means I'm suddenly a fundamentalist, wishing fire and brimstone on everyone, or, God forbid, starting religious wars. This is a naive kind of sentiment, and just as imbalanced as those who genuinely are slaves to dogma and fundamentalism. I honestly don't see why people need to get their rocks off by taking petty stabs at the Golden Dawn - what does it achieve? Yes, by all means give the much needed critique (which has been given before, however), for there are imperfections throughout the system, but to throw it all out on what seems like a whim is, in my opinion, a spiritually criminal act.
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