Mishkan ha-Echad

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Poetry: Candlelight Key

A poem I wrote in 2006:

In vessels of beauty I sought the beloved;
I sailed upon seas made of poetry and prose.
This tongue-tied tale of a travelling wayman
Brought me to the foot of the cross and the rose -
And there in the shadow the hidden light shows.

In moments of rapture and deep thoughts enclosing,
I rode on a mule that was made out of me;
This trip was in darkness, though on the horizon,
Was a single star shining for all us to see.
Lost in my thoughts, I was trapped and yet free.

In times of great trial when the dark is approaching,
I only need look past this valley of death,
This cage of bleak remnants and careful supposings,
To the great and wide ocean outside the fish net,
Where the waters still nourish and the Mother is met.

Inside are the waters, within is the Tree;
I sailed upon oceans that were all within me.
It took me so long to stop sailing and Be,
And in that pure Being my being was set free -
Let no Dark avail, for the Light is the Key.

Monday 23 April 2012

Hermetic Virtues, Vol. 5 No. 3

Volume 5, Issue No. 3 of Hermetic Virtues has been released, containing the following excellent articles and reviews:

+ The Path of the Chameleon: Golden Dawn Color Studies by Sandra Tabatha Cicero
+ The Lovers by Harry Wendrich
+ Spiritual Development by Frater YShY
+ The Elemental Weapons of the Adept by Jayne Gibson
+ A life magical and rich - review by Samuel Scarborough
+ An invocation of Binah by Samuel Scarborough
+ The Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers:  An Exploration of Westcott's Enochian Tablets - review by Lauren E. Gardner
+ Restoring the Goddess of Nature to the 1=10 by Nick Farrell
+ Into the Aethyrs of Enochian - review by Samuel Scarborough
+ An invocation of Qadesh Aphariel (Perfect Spirit) by V.H. Soror A.A.

To obtain a copy, click here.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Book Review: By Names and Images

Peregrin Wildoak's first book, By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life, is an aptly-titled exploration of the Golden Dawn system of magic from a unique perspective. It delves into the inner workings of the rituals and techniques utilised by the Order and provides an accessible guidebook and manual for working with and within the Golden Dawn tradition.

At 371 pages this is a comprehensive text, exploring many of the important teachings of the Order in some detail, with chapters on purification, meditation, divination, aura control, invocation, evocation, inner plane work, and initiation. The material on auras and dramatic invocation is particularly good, showing a wealth of experience and insight in this area.

I do not always agree with some of the things Wildoak suggests, such as drawing up the light from the Earth in the Qabalistic Cross, but it is interesting to see another approach to this thriving magical tradition. There are also a couple of Hebrew errors, but these are relatively minor and do not detract from the overall quality of the work.

Perhaps the biggest strength of this book is the fact that it highlights the importance of the inner workings that actually make the Golden Dawn rituals and ceremonies operate effectively. The original Order left behind a wealth of material, but there are definite gaps in the system which need to be filled by modern adepts. While many of Wildoak's suggested inner workings are not strictly traditional, they do provide a workable system for enhancing ritual practice and show how other magicians can instil more life into their magical work.

By Names and Images is more than just a theoretical text, however. It is, in many ways, a detailed manual, giving step-by-step instructions for the performance of ritual magic. This is primarily aimed at solitary magicians, but temple members can equally benefit from seeing how a fellow Frater does things. Instructions at the end of the book for connecting with the Golden Dawn egregore provide a workable alternative or supplementary material to existing approaches of self-initiation.

This book was supposed to be released many years ago, but a delay at the previous publisher means that this material has only now come to light. This is a pity, as I can see how beneficial something like this would have been to aspiring magicians several years ago, but it is good to see small publishing companies like Skylight Press ensuring texts like this are made available.

Wildoak's passion for the Golden Dawn and spiritual growth pervades this work, which constantly affirms a connection to the divine, something that cannot be accessed by just going through the motions in our ceremonies and rituals. We might know the names and images that are used in Golden Dawn work, but Wildoak highlights some of the inner work that really brings the system to life.

Friday 13 April 2012

Short Treatise on the Sigils of the Scales

Olen Rush posted his excellent Short Treatise on the Sigils of the Scales on his blog, which is a perfect accompaniment to Sandra Tabatha Cicero's The Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers, shedding light on one of the more mysterious aspects of Golden Dawn teaching.

Image © Olen Rush

This advanced Golden Dawn Enochian material shows how much more there is to explore, experience and learn in the Golden Dawn system, and Olen's treatise makes for an excellent new Flying Roll for modern adepts.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

What is the Golden Dawn?

There are many misconceptions out there about what the Golden Dawn is. Instead of disputing or debunking them, let us look at what the Golden Dawn really is. These points are in no particular order, nor are they a complete representation, but they will hopefully shed more light on this more than a century old tradition.

The Golden Dawn is a syncretic tradition that combines and unifies a multitude of magical systems employed in the Western Mystery Tradition, including, but not limited to: Qabalah, Astrology, Tarot, Hermeticism, Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Enochian, Geomancy, and various other esoteric subjects.

The Golden Dawn is a school that teaches a structured approach to magic, being primarily theoretical in the Outer Order (the Golden Dawn proper) and practical in the Inner Order (the RR et AC or Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis). Some have likened the requirements of Golden Dawn study to that of a college degree, with several grade exams and, in the Stella Matutina tradition, a thesis of several thousand words required in the Portal grade.

The Golden Dawn is a magical order dedicated to the aim of creating magicians and adepts, who are "more than human" and dedicated to the Great Work. Magical techniques are taught and employed for multiple ends. Depending on the group in question this might be entirely spiritually focused or a mix of spiritual and practical. Members usually practice magic on their own and as part of their temple.

The Golden Dawn is a system of alchemical change that, if properly adhered to, highlights the imbalances within us and forces us to address them. It works as a form of active therapy, where we work out our problems so that we can become better people, both in a mundane and spiritual sense. We are torn apart that we may be renewed. Our old self, created by societal imprints and pressures, is replaced with a new self that we alone create, one that is no longer bound by illusion and limitations, where we actively engage with our life and where we want to lead it, and take responsibility for all that we think, say, and do.

The Golden Dawn is a fraternal group that is open to a wide mix of people from all backgrounds. It was one of the first magical groups to accept women, despite its Masonic background, and it has included members of multiple religions, teaching that there is value in all of them. This fraternity has expanded in modern days, with most groups being open to members of any gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or political persuasion. Most modern Golden Dawn groups extend their fraternal relations beyond just their own group, encouraging a growing and thriving exchange between members of various orders and those who belong to independent temples or work on their own.

The Golden Dawn is a "Society of Kabbalists," according to the original publicity of its existence (see this post by Olen Rush). This emphasises the important place of the Qabalah in the Golden Dawn, and many people see it as the underlying tradition that interweaves the entire system of magic.

The Golden Dawn is a 19th Century creation based on earlier teachings and traditions. There are many theories on the origin of the Cipher Manuscripts, upon which the Outer Order rituals and Knowledge Lectures are based, but some attribute them to Kenneth Mackenzie, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Frederick Hockley, or even Mathers and Westcott themselves. The Order itself opened in 1888, while the Inner Order opened in 1892 (the origin of the material for that is more clear, coming from Mathers and Westcott). Westcott's official "History Lecture" proposes a fanciful history that links the Order back to ancient times, but historical evidence and common sense contradicts this. This in no way invalidates the Order or its teachings, however, which are certainly rooted in older tradition.

The Golden Dawn is one of many equally valid magical traditions. The Order popularised many occult topics and contributed a significant amount of material to the modern approach to magic, but it is only one of a large consortium of groups that has influenced the wider Western Mystery Tradition. While many present-day magicians owe some of their knowledge to the Golden Dawn, the Golden Dawn owes much of its knowledge to older traditions and magicians who came before it. 

The Golden Dawn is a living, breathing and growing tradition. Over the years the Order has been maligned by some from without and within, but it is as strong as it has ever been, with more members (in some form or other) today than at any time in its history. Some have suggested it is obsolete, but it still provides the tools for change that many magicians find are powerful and valuable. Many Order papers remain unpublished, some are only recently being shared with the wider world, and modern adepts are contributing new material, just as the adepts of the original Order did. There has never been a better time to be a member, whether it is within an order or as a solitary magician.

Monday 2 April 2012

The Magical Motto - Secret or Revealed?

"I am the Knowledge of my Name." 
Thunder, Perfect Mind

In the Golden Dawn the magical motto is not just a fancy name or title, but a representation of the spiritual and magical goals of the magician. It is, in many ways, the first magical act performed by the Candidate, consecrating themselves towards a given purpose, redirecting their life as they see fit.

The motto therefore carries a lot of power, particularly when employed regularly in ritual work, where it becomes the very embodiment of the magical persona of the initiate. On entering the temple, Bob is no longer Bob, but Frater Whatever, and if he really chose that as his motto we would expect to see disinterest and apathy become a central focus and defining factor in his life.

So, with so much wrapped up in our magical name, should we keep it secret or let the whole world know? There are varying schools of thought on this, none of which are right or wrong, and ultimately the choice to share your motto is a personal decision to make, just as the choice of the motto itself should be personal (and not assigned to you, like the policy of certain groups).

Some view the motto as one of those things that should be kept secret, but the reasons for this secrecy are often vastly different.

On one hand, secrecy is a well-known aspect of the occult, both for mundane and magical reasons. It has been written about in many tomes how secrecy can aid our magical work. It is often associated with the idea of containing power, just as a magician might not tell anyone about a magical working until it has been completed and achieved, lest the generated energy and intent towards that goal is dissipated. Some of this line of reasoning has even become part of pop culture in the form of birthday wishes, which must not be shared or they won't come true.

On the other hand, some believe that sharing their motto, which they think of as their true name, will give people power over them. There is a long-standing tradition that supports this idea, with occultists regularly gaining power over spirits through the employment of the spirit's name, or a certain divine name. This approach even made it into the well-known Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, where the woman was able to escape her bargain with the imp by telling him his name. The importance of names and their power is also explored frequently in the Qabalah.

In the Golden Dawn we see this coming into play when the Candidate is challenged by, for example, the Hiereus in the Neophyte ceremony: "Thou canst not pass by me, saith the Guardian of the West, unless thou canst tell me my name."

Thus, some people claim that sharing their motto with someone else gives the other person, or people, power over them. Of course, a counter to this argument is that usually a motto is shared within an Order, which would, by this logic, give fellow initiates power over them, and if a magician really lost his or her power by sharing their motto I would personally question how much of a magician they were in the first place.

On the third hand (which every occultist should really have), there are the various oaths of secrecy to take into account. Some magicians hide their motto because they have been or believe they have been sworn to keep it secret, with little consideration for any possible magical reasons whatsoever. In most Golden Dawn groups, however, the Neophyte Oath does not list the personal motto of the initiate as something that must be kept secret, and even the requirement not to share the names of fellow members does not specify their mottoes (though some would argue that these are their true names and thus fall under this line of the oath).

The opposing viewpoint to the employment of secrecy is the idea of revelation, of sharing one's magical motto far and wide. This might be a wilful act, where the magician deliberately employs their motto (such as in the signing of a charter or initiation certificate, the inscribing of the motto on a talisman that will be seen by others, or as I have done in the image above), or it could be a simple refusal to accept that there is anything wrong in sharing such a name.

If you haven't guessed by now I find value in both approaches, as there is certainly power in secrecy and power in names, but my experience has shown me that in revealing one of my mottoes I have not been weakened or subjected to the rulership of another. In fact, in many ways I have been strengthened and empowered, because every time someone speaks to or of me when employing my motto, they identify me with my magical goal, constantly affirming the name and empowering the act of magic that went behind it.

"I am the Utterance of my Name." 
— Thunder, Perfect Mind

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