Mishkan ha-Echad

Saturday 27 June 2009

Invoke The Highest

One of the most pivotal principles of Golden Dawn magic is the practice of invoking the highest divine name one knows before anything else. This is frequently reinforced throughout the Order material. For example, from Mathers' Geomancy lecture:

"Do remember that in one of the Ritual obligations, the aspirant swears that in all his magical workings he will always invoke the highest divine names that he knows. Thus he will always be working under the aegis of the divine."

What is referred to here is the Netzach part of the Obligation in the 5=6:

"I furthermore solemnly pledge myself never to work at any important symbol without first invocating the highest Divine Names connected therewith."

That this principle is actually sworn to as part of an oath might tell the student just how serious it really is.

Regardie also highlighted this principle frequently:

"You are committed by the very nature of this system to invoke the highest divine Names you know when working on any magical topic."

And again:

"The reader should have noticed that in one of the obligations that the initiate into the Order has assumed there is the statement that no matter what type of magical operation he proposes to engage in, he will always invoke the highest divine names within his purview. In this way, his steps will be guided in the right direction and all harm thus avoided. In a major sense this is one of the greatest differences between the initiated and profane points of view. It holds good in all occult matters -- from so apparently a prosaic undertaking as divining by means of geomancy to invoking one's higher and divine genius. It means placing one's workings and one's goal in the hands of the divine -- no matter how one defines the latter."

Friday 26 June 2009

Methods to Obtain the Geomantic Figures

Geomancy is unique in that there is no one definitive way of obtaining the geomantic figures that start the process of the divination. There are no runes to throw or Tarot cards to shuffle, and thus there are many potential ways we can approach the formation of the four Mother figures in our geomantic readings. In this post I will highlight a few possibilities:

1. Stick & Sand

Poking holes in the sand or soil is probably the oldest and most traditional method, probably originally employed in Arabian deserts. A simple branch or stick and a patch of soil offers the easiest and most cost-effective approach for those who frequent the wilderness often. The connection with the earth that this affords makes this one of the more ideal options. For those who prefer something that can be employed at home then a Geomantic Box can be created to store some soil, and a Geomantic Wand (created from a thin wooden dowel) can be used to poke the holes. An example of this, with instructions to make one, can be found on page 281 of Creating Magical Tools (page numbers from the Llewellyn 1999 edition) by the Ciceros.

2. Pen & Paper

Pen and paper is the most common method used nowadays and was also quite popular in the Renaissance. This simply involves randomly forming dots or dashes on a piece of paper, in much the same way as randomly poking holes in the soil would be done. This process could also, through paper, be linked to earth. A con to both of these approaches is that they give the diviner too much control over how many dots can be formed, and thus it's possible to consciously choose the symbols one wants to see as opposed to what is accurate of the situation.

3. Bag of Stones

A suggestion from John Michael Greer is a bag or bowl of small stones or pebbles, a handful of which could be taken and scattered on the ground, and then counted to find the relevant number. This could be employed out in the wild with random stones (or other small objects), or a more permanent method could be practised at home. Indeed, they could potentially be painted in earthy or Malkuthian colours, or even in elemental ones in order to form the four lines of each geomantic figure in a single throw.

4. Double-sided Runes/Coins/Sticks

Another suggestion from Greer is a set of double-sided runes, with a single dot on one side and a double dot on the other. This is a fairly quick method of acquiring the geomantic figures, and could make a good gift for the magically inclined. These could be made from wood or stone (both of these preferable for their earthy link) and then painted in earthy/Malkuthian colours or elemental ones. Other alternatives include coins (heads for one dot, tails for two, for example) or specially-created throwing sticks, like the ones you can find here (linked by Scott+).

5. Dice

A final suggestion, recommended to me by a friend recently, is the simple use of dice. An odd number equals one dot, an even number two dots. While many dice you can buy nowadays are plastic there are some that are wooden, which would be more ideal. Indeed, I've seen coloured wooden dice, which could be excellent for an elemental set in order to procur a full geomantic figure in one throw.

Do you have any other methods you employ? Why not share them in a comment?

Hermetic Virtues, No. 9

Issue 9 of Hermetic Virtues has been released, containing the following excellent articles:

+ A Hermetic Ritual from the Picatrix by John Michael Greer
+ The Devil, another new Tarot trump by Harry Wendrich
+ Seven Stages of Spiritual Unfoldment by Nick Farrell
+ Initiation and the Four Worlds by Olen Rush
+ Review of John Michael Greer's The Art and Practice of Geomancy by Lauren Gardner
+ Theoi Megaloi: The Many Faces of the Kabiric Mysteries by Sandra Tabatha Cicero
+ Review of Robert Moore's Facing the Dragon by Lauren Gardner
+ In Search of the Lost Colour: Mystical Magenta and the Golden Dawn by Harry and Nicola Wendrich
+ An Invocation of Yesod by Samuel Scarborough

To obtain a copy, click here.

Thursday 25 June 2009

What is Geomancy?

Geomancy (from the Greek ge, meaning earth, and manteia, meaning divination or prophecy) is the practice of divination by reading the signs of the earth, or more properly by a method relating to sixteen figures made up of a number of points or dots, an example of which can be seen above (they number sixteen because that is the maximum possible permutations of the binary figures over four lines). These figures are given various meanings, good, bane, and neutral, and are associated with a number of other things, such as zodiacal signs, planets, elements, and so forth. It is through these meanings and associations that an interpretation of a reading can be garnered by the geomancer. A chart of these geomantic figures and some of their associations is given below.

The method of practice for geomancy requires that the geomancer obtain fifteen geomantic figures for their reading, divided into four Mothers, four Daughters, four Resultants (or Nieces or Nephews), two Witnesses, and one Judge. The method for obtaining these varies, but the two most common approaches involve randomly poking holes in the soil or randomly marking dots on a piece of paper, which, when added up, will give an odd or even number, and thus a single or double dot for the first part of the first geomantic figure. This process, and further processes or rearrangement and addition, is repeated until all fifteen of the figures are obtained.

Interpretation then depends on a number of factors, but the simplest approach is to check what the last figure, the Judge, means, and also what the two Witnesses mean in relation to it. This is a good approach for simple "yes" and "no" questions. More detailed analyses can be worked out, however, including a full astrological chart reading, where the various figures are entered into a traditional square chart and interpreted accordingly.

A number of genii (the plural of genius, a "guardian spirit") rule the sixteen geomantic figures, and thus this method of divination places a larger role on the ability to work with these spirits than on only the intuitive faculties of the diviner. The Ciceros, in their Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition, expand on this point:

"This system of divination is unlike others in that the psychic awareness of the diviner is of less importance than in a system such as Tarot. It is the diviner's ability to evoke the Spirit that becomes the focus of consideration for a successful Geomantic divination. This is the reason why Geomancy is perhaps a better method for individuals who have trouble visualizing or interpreting a reading."

Golden Dawn procedure generally requires that the sigil of a genius relating to the question being asked be drawn within an Invoking Earth Pentagram in a circle (to contain the force). Mathers gave the following instructions in his Geomancy lecture:

"The symbol of a Pentagram either within or without a circumscribed circle should be made at the top of the paper on which the dashes are made. The paper itself should be perfectly clean and should have never been previously used for any other purpose. If a circle be used with the Pentagram, it should be drawn before the latter is described. The Pentagram should always be of the “invoking” type, as described in the Pentagram Ritual. Since the Pentagram concerns the element of Earth, it should therefore be drawn beginning at the top point descending to the lower left hand point, carefully closing the angle at the finish. While slowly tracing the Pentagram, the divine name associated with Earth should be intoned or vibrated ADONAI ha-ARETZ. It could be intoned two or three times before proceeding with the drawing of the Sigil. This will help to concentrate the mind and to elevate it to the highest notion compatible with the method. Do remember that in one of the Ritual obligations, the aspirant swears that in all his magical workings he will always invoke the highest divine names that he knows. Thus he will always be working under the aegis of the divine. Within the centre of the Pentagram, the Sigil of the “Ruler” to which the matter of the question specially refers, should be placed."

Originally geomancy was taught in the 3=8 grade of Practicus, but many modern Orders have employed it in the 1=10 grade of Zelator instead, to tie it into the Earth energies relevant to that grade.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

The Lesser Pentagram and the Earth Pentagram

There is a common confusion in modern times over the Lesser Pentagram employed in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram (in both its invoking and banishing forms) and the Earth Pentagram employed in the Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram. On the surface the drawing of these two pentagrams looks the same, and thus it's easy to see where the confusion and conflation comes from. But there are subtle and not so subtle differences:

The first pentagram here is the Lesser Invoking Pentagram, to be imagined in white light, or, as seen by clairvoyants, bluish white light. The second is the Invoking Earth Pentagram, to be imagined in black, with a symbol of Taurus drawn in the center. Without the colour differences and the addition of this symbol they appear to be the same. They are not.

Let's look at another example to bring this point home:

The first pentagram here is the Banishing Air Pentagram, to be imagined in yellow with the symbol of Aquarius drawn in the centre. The second is the Invoking Water Pentagram, to be imagined in blue with the symbol of Scorpio in the centre. At first glance, when the zodiac symbols and the colour differences are not employed, they appear to be the same pentagram, but they are not. Likewise for Invoking Air and Banishing Water.

Thus it is important to not make assumptions on the basis of what something is at face value; just because the Lesser Pentagram is drawn in the same manner as the Earth Pentagram does not make it the same.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

The Role of the Candidate

While some of my previous posts have gone over the official roles and duties of the Officers in an initation ceremony, what about the role of the Canidate?

Some would argue there is no role, in that the Candidate has things "done" to them, as opposed to actively paritcipating. However, this is, in itself, a role.

The passivity and receptivity required of the Candidate is their role. They are to become a Vessel for the energies and symbols implanted in them, and thus they must be made passive and receptive. Much of this is acheived through various dramatic elements of ritual, such as the quite potent one of shock. The not knowing what it happening or what is about to happen tends to heighten the senses to a degree that all things done are magnified in force. If, for example, the sight is removed from the Candidate (via a Hoodwink), then when it is restored there is a huge impact, including the fact that a coloured prop will now seem suddenly more vibrant and alive than it would have had the sense of sight not been heightened accordingly. Much of what the Candidate is to say is also said on behalf of him or her by the Hegemon, further inducing the state of passivity, where they, being their Lower Self, are no longer in control, having handed this over to the Officer symbolic of their Higher Self.

The main place where the Candidate actually actively participates is the Oath, for the Hegemon does not answer for him or her here. This suggests that the Oath is taken by the Lower Self, not the Higher Self, for, of course, the Higher Self does not need to take an Oath, for it lives by many of the principles expressed in the Oath already. Usually the Oath is given towards the beginning of the ceremony, thus freeing up the rest to induce the state of passivity again in the Candidate. Even the Oath can aid in this, for messing up the lines, especially when hoodwinked and kneeling before the Hierophant, can jar the confidence of the Candidate and eliminate any remaining elements of egotism that may have been brought into the Hall; this too aids towards the receptive state necessary for the initiation to be successful.

As the Initiate advances through the grades they become more active in them, capping this with their role in Adeptus Minor.

Saturday 13 June 2009

The Throne & Altar

"The Hierophant's throne is like a switch to turn the current on, while the Altar is analogous to the light bulb situated in the center of the room to spread light to all areas equally."

- Pat Zalewski, Z-5, Book I (0=0)

Friday 12 June 2009

The Hierophant

The Hierophant (Greek for "Initiating Priest") is the Initiator, Expounder of the Mysteries, and the Master of the Hall; and is also called Power and Mercy and Light and Abundance. He is represented by the god-form Oursiri (Osiris). His station is on the Throne of the East, the Place of the Guardian of the Dawning Sun. His duties are to initiate the Canidate, deliver the Mysteries, and to govern the Hall according to the laws of the Order, for he is the Master of all who work for the Hidden Knowledge. He wears a red mantle/tabard, symbolising Uncreated Fire and Created Fire, with a white cross on the left breast; and a white collar with a lamen depicting a red Circled Cross on a green background. He carries the Crown-headed Scepter and the Banner of the East.

The feminine form of Hierophant is Hierophantissa, but Hierophant is often used in practice for both sexes.

Thursday 11 June 2009

The Hiereus

The Hiereus (Greek for "Priest") is the sacrificial priest, the Guardian of the Sacred Mysteries, and the Master of Darkness; he is also called Fortitude by "the Unhappy", and is represented by the god-form Hoor (Horus). His station is on the Throne of the West, symbolic of the increase of Darkness and the decrease of Light. His duties are to guard the Gateway of the West, which is the Place of the Guardian against the Multitudes (Qlippoth) that sleep through the Light and awaken in the Twilight, and also to watch over the reception of the Candidate and the lesser officers in the doing of their work. He wears a black mantle/tabard, symbolising the Darkness that was upon the Face of the Waters, with a white cross on the left breast; and a red collar with a lamen depicting a white Triangle on a black background. He carries the Sword of Judgement, and the Banner of the West, otherwise known as the Banner of the Evening Twilight.

The feminine form of Hiereus is Hiereia, but Hiereus is often used in practice for both sexes.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

The Hegemon

The Hegemon (Greek for "Guide" or "Leader") is the spiritual guide of the Candidate, representative of his or her Higher Self. He is represented by the god-form Thme (Themis/Maat). His station is between the Two Pillars of Hermes and Solomon, which is the Place of Balanced Power, and he is, therefore, the reconciler between Light and Darkness. His duties are to watch over the Gateway of the Hidden Knowledge and the preparation of the Candidate, and to assist in their reception into the Order. He wears a white mantle/tabard, symbolising purity, with a red cross on the left breast; and a black collar with a lamen depicting a black Cross on a white background. He carries a Miter-headed Scepter, symbolising religion which guides and regulates life, and his Office symbolises the higher aspirations of the soul which should guide its action.

The feminine form of Hegemon is Hegemone, but Hegemon is often used in practice for both sexes.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

The Keryx

The Keryx (Greek for "Herald") is the Watcher Within. He is represented by the god-form Anoup empeIebet (Anubis of the East), and is the counterpart of the Phylax, the Watcher Without. His station is within the portal of the Hall, and his duties are to see that the furniture of the Hall is properly arranged at the Opening, to guard the inner side of the portal, to admit the Fratres and Sorores, to watch over the reception of the Candidate, and to make all reports and announcements. He is also charged with leading all Mystic Circumambulations with the Ever-burning Lamp of the Guardian of the Mysteries. He wears a black collar with a lamen depicting a white Caduceus on a black background, and carries the Red Lamp, symbolic of the Hidden Knowledge, and the Caduceus Wand, symbolic of its directing power.

The feminine form of Keryx is Kerykissa, but Keryx is often used in practice for both sexes.

Monday 8 June 2009

The Stolistes

The Stolistes (Greek for "Preparer") is the Purifier of the Temple, its members, and its candidates. He is represented by the god-form Auramoouth (Mut), and his station is in the North of the Temple, symbolising Cold and Moisture, which is the Place of the Guardian of the Cauldron and the Well of Water. He is charged with the task of preparing the Robes, Collars, and Insignia of the Officers for the Opening. He wears a black collar with a lamen depicting a white Cup on a black background, and carries the Cup of Lustral Waters. He bears a special relationship with the Dadouchos in the Temple.

The feminine form of Stolistes is also Stolistes.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Traditional Grade Requirements for Officers

Traditionally the Officers in a GD ceremony were required to be of at least a certain grade, and thus these Officers would be dropped from subsequent initiations (such as the Sentinel, being a Neophyte, being dropped from Zelator onwards) to ensure that such an Officer would not be employed in an initiation above their own grade. The traditional grade requirements for holding office are:

  • Sentinel - Neophyte
  • Stolistes and Dadouchos - Zelator
  • Keryx - Theoricus
  • Hegemon - Practicus
  • Hiereus - Philosophus
  • Hierophant - Adeptus Minor (usually ZAM)

For some interesting alternative perspectives on the suggested or required grade of the Officers in an initiation, check out this post by Morgan Drake Eckstein.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Broken Vessels

"Divine Light cannot be poured into broken vessels - and we are all broken vessels until we decide to take the steps necessary for our own restoration."

- the Ciceros in the 120th Anniversary issue of
Hermetic Virtues

Monday 1 June 2009

Is the Golden Dawn a religion?

This is a common query from those new to the Golden Dawn, and the answer is: no, the Golden Dawn is a system of ceremonial practice. It is a teaching and initiating order, designed to promulgate spiritual and occult knowledge in a steady, structured manner. You can be a member of any religion and still be a member of the Golden Dawn or utilise any of its teachings or practices. To best illustrate this, here is a quote from the Hierophant in the Neophyte initiation before the Oath is taken:

"There is nothing contrary to your civil, moral or religious duties in this Obligation."

The above clearly states that there is nothing in the obligation or teachings of the Order that will run contrary to your religious duties (i.e. you will not be asked to pray to or worship any God that is not your own). While the teachings may contradict the teachings of exoteric religion, your inner relationship with the Divine is seen as a personal thing and is never interfered with. Thus the generic term "Lord of the Universe" is often used in reference to the Divine. This term, while masculine and of Gnostic origin, can be taken to represent whatever form of Divinity you personally prescribe to.

There are also the words of the Hiereus in the exhortation towards the end of the 0=0:

"Remember that you hold all Religions in reverence, for there is none but contains a Ray from the Ineffable Light that you are seeking."

This respect and reverence for all religions is also indicative of the fact that the Golden Dawn does not require its members to be of a certain religion, but to merely be tolerant of all religions. This is exemplified in the synthetic nature of the Order itself, drawing here and there from multiple traditions: Christian, Judaic, Pagan, Gnostic, Platonic, Rosicrucian, and more.

It is important to note, however, that the Golden Dawn, given its synthetic nature, utilises terminology from, for example, the Qabalah, which is Jewish at heart. Thus, if you are uncomfortable with Judeo-Christian symbolism, you may wish to read the ceremonies and teachings of the Order to ensure you will feel right about utilising such symbolism and terminology. The Outer Order is primarily Egyptian in symbolism (and thus Pagan), while the Inner Order is primarily Rosicrucian and Gnostic in symbolism (and thus Christian). Members of the Order have in the past and present been of multiple religions, though primarily Christian, Jewish, and Pagan.

Relating to this topic is that of Pagans & the Golden Dawn.

Out of interest, I have started a poll on the new Golden Dawn Forum as a kind of census of the religions upheld by people working with the Golden Dawn system. You can find this poll here.

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