Mishkan ha-Echad

Thursday, 1 August 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.
Post a Comment