Mishkan ha-Echad

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Relationship Between the Grades & the Officers

In the Neophyte Ceremony of the Golden Dawn a total of seven floor officers are required (although one could do without the Sentinel, since he/she doesn't really do much), but as one progresses up the grades one or more of these officers are dropped, until Practicus and Philosophus, when only the three main officers (Hierophant, Hiereus, and Hegemon) are required.

One of the reasons for this relates to the grade that can hold the office. For example, a Neophyte can only hold the office of Sentinel. So, in order to prevent Neophytes from seeing Zelator and above, the Sentinel role is dropped. Some people argue that this is not specifically stated, since the Sentinel traditionally sat outside and can continue to do so for the rest of the grades. However, aside from the possibility of them eavesdropping (the natural curiosities of humanity kick in when vague mumblings of barbaric names sound out from the room next door), this would not follow the subsequent system that is applied to the other officers. For those not familiar with this, I have given the relationships between the grades and the officers here.

Let us explore the relationship between each of these offices and their respective grades.

The office applicable to the Neophyte is the Sentinel, or Phylax, who traditionally resided outside the Hall. He is, effectively, a bit of an outsider, an officer but not an officer, if you will, just as the Neophyte him or herself is a member but not a member (given that the 0=0 grade is probationary). The Sentinel's place outside the Hall has a symbolic relationship with the Neophyte's place off the Tree of Life. The fact that the Sentinel is charged with preparing the Candidate also highlights the intimacy that is between them, for, in many ways, it is the Candidate him or herself that must do this preparation, such as finding out that this is the right path for them and mustering the courage to pursue it.

The offices applicable to the Zelator are the Stolistes and Dadouchos. It might seem unusual that the Zelator can take on two offices, but in many ways they act as one unit, and thus to understand one the Zelator must also work with the other. It also highlights the Golden Dawn's constant emphasis on balance, especially when it comes to the powerful elements of Water and Fire. Thus, these offices are given in one grade, that neither may become too dominant so as to imbalance the initiate. The Dadouchos office has a particularly strong relationship with this grade, given that the Admission Badge of 1=10 is actually a Fylfot Cross, depicted upon the Dadouchos' lamen, and the Dadouchos also takes precedence in the Opening of the 1=10 grade by consecrating before the purifications of the Stolistes, the reverse of which is employed in 0=0. There appears to be a somewhat fiery undercurrent to the 1=10, which can also be seen in the red slippers of the Outer Order (the whole of which is applicable to the Sephirah of this grade) and the link between the placement of the Cross within the Triangle and that of the Banner of the West (an implement of the fiery office of Hiereus).

The office applicable to the Theoricus is the Keryx, whose lamen is a Caduceus and whose wand is also a Caduceus. The Admission Badge into the sphere of Yesod within Theoricus is, of course, a Caduceus. That this grade is linked to Air, while the Caduceus is linked with Mercury and thus also Air, is another possible relationship, but an argument against that would be Mercury's association with Hod, not Yesod.

This is where we encounter some problems, however, as instead of finding the Admission Badge of the grade of Practicus being the lamen of the Hegemon it is the lamen of the Stolistes. Of course, the Practicus grade is related to Water, and thus there's an obvious relationship between that and the Stolistes, but the link between the Practicus and the Hegemon is more difficult to understand. Even the Hegemon Sceptre does not link up, as it represents the Pillar of Mercy, where Philosophus lies (in Netzach) rather than that of Severity, where Practicus lies (in Hod). However, we know that the Golden Dawn system has built in fail-safes to ensure balance, and this especially applies to the outer Sephiroth of Hod and Netzach (since they no longer enjoy the balance of the Middle Pillar, like in the previous two grades). Thus in this watery Sephirah the fiery Sword of the Hiereus, representing the Pillar of Severity, is present, while in the fiery Sephirah of Netzach the watery Sceptre of the Hegemon can be found. This also explains why the Hegemon does not disappear after this grade, as per the system of the previous grades, for both these officers, indicative of the two outer pillars, are important to maintain balance.

This naturally leads us to Philosophus and the office of Hiereus. The same issues as that of Practicus applies, for not only is the Admission Badge not that of Hiereus, it is actually that of the Hegemon. This could, of course, be seen as an attempt to bring the office applicable to Practicus (and thus those watery energies) into the volatile grade of Philosophus, in much the same way as the reversal of implements described above. The balancing role of the Hegemon is particularly an important energy to be brought into the sometimes destructive grade of 4=7. However, the office of this grade is the Hiereus, the sacrificial priest who guards against the Qlippoth in the West, represented by the god-form of Horus the Avenger. This is clearly a very fiery role, and thus works well with the flames of the Philosophi.

So then what happened to the elusive Hiereus lamen? That becomes the Admission Badge of the Portal Grade. While, of course, such a fiery relationship might be seen to unbalance the energies present in this grade, the lamen itself is a white triangle, which has a far wider scope than many of the others. Instead of representing the fiery triangle that it might do with certain aspects of the Hiereus, it can easily be seen as that great emblem of the Light that is pivotal to Golden Dawn teaching. Thus it would represent the Spirit. And, of course, it shows that the Hiereus, in essence, captures a reflection of the Light from Tiphareth (and Kether beyond) to scare away the Darkness in the West. Indeed, this symbol shows the Light hidden in and emerging from the Darkness. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1:5, NRSV)

Much of the above, barring the seeming inconsistencies (which may simply be mysteries yet to be understood), hints at one further point: on entry into Neophyte the initiate receives the necessary energies and teachings to fulfill the role of Sentinel, and thus in all the grades above 0=0 he or she takes on the role of Sentinel (on an inner, somewhat subconscious, level). Likewise, the new Zelator absorbs the offices of Stolistes and Dadouchos, to the point that his or entry into Malkuth is dependant on his or her possession of the symbol of the Dadouchos (although not Stolistes), and thus the Zelator him or herself takes on these roles in the subsequent ceremonies. And so on as the grades progress, until the Zelator Adeptus Minor becomes a kind of one-man initiating team, having absorbed all of the offices that have gone before. While this is not to suggest that other people are not needed (although arguably they are not), each step up the ladder is not merely a new step, but encompasses the one that has gone before. Frank Salt, a 7=4 of the old Whare Ra Temple in New Zealand, came to a similar conclusion:

"After this Grade [1=10], none of the three Offices [Sentinel, Stolistes, and Dadouchos] appear again. Signifying that now you are responsible for the performance of their Offices, personally. You are ‘on your own’ regarding your personal life in the world. You now, in symbolism, are responsible for everything in your own outward life, while within, the Hegemon, through the Kerux, guides you, under the direction of the Hierophant. We therefore advise you to clarify as far as you are able, just what these Offices represent in your living."

This is, of course, merely a cursory glance at the relationships between these grades and their appropriate offices, but it may help to illustrate that their appointment is not arbitrary, and that, indeed, a greater understanding of the component parts may be gleaned by exploring their relationship with others. There is undoubtedly more to find, and I encourage all students of the Golden Dawn to explore these rituals and their parts in much more detail.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dean. I think that actually clears something up for me. :-)

Dean Wilson said...

No problem. Glad to help. I think it clears up a few things for me, but it also poses lots of new questions. Prepare for more blog posts! ;)