Archive for the ‘nick farrell’ Tag
Jake Kent reads from Geosophia
It looks like good old Jake Stratton Kent has created a bit of a stir in the ceremonial magic communities. It started with a sort of “manifesto” that he posted on the Solomonic Yahoo Group – explaining the reasons for his opposition to the secret society (or quasi-masonic lodge) model of occultism. It was quickly followed by my own defense of such occult lodges.
This has made for a fairly interesting debate, and I’ve spent the last couple of days considering whether or not I wanted to bring it over here to my blog . But since in that time the entire matter has gone viral – and even Jake has found it necessary to post an Open letter to the Golden Dawn in response – I suppose it would be helpful for me to continue the discussion here.
To bring you up to speed I’ll be posting Jake’s original manifesto here along with his Open Letter to the Golden Dawn. Then I’ll share my thoughts on the subject. But first let me give you a brief explanation of who Jake Kent is and where he is coming from.
Jake is a goetic magician, but that doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. When Jake uses the term “goetia” he’s not talking about the Renaissance grimoire of that name (which we will refer to as the Goetia of Solomon) – nor about something so simplistic as “working with demons”. Instead he is referring to one of the most primordial foundations of Western occultism: the ancient Greek Goen.
Jake explains all of this incredibly well in his seminal work Geosophia – which I highly recommend in my review which you can read here. But for our current purposes I’ll attempt to give a very short and simple explanation. “Goen” was the word for shaman in Greece before the Olympian cults existed. The Goen presided over healing, initiation, magical protection and, most famously, funerary rites. When a person died the Goen were called in as professional mourners at the funeral. (Their ritualized wailing for the dead is why the word goetia is said to translate as “howling.”) And, of course, these shamanic duties necessarily required the Goen to interact with a host of underworld and “sub-lunary” entities.
These guys were at the very heart of what eventually became the Western Mystery Tradition. Whether it is Orphism, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Greek Kabiri, the early Christians worshipping in catacombs and tombs or the Golden Dawn’s Hall of Ma’at – you’ll find the Goen in their distant past. Plus, as the Goen we’re quite famous for working with underworld spirits, the term goetia (the craft of the Goen) became synonymous with “witchcraft” (i.e. – working with spirits) and formed the foundation of the Solomonic grimoire tradition. (Hence the Goetia of Solomon.)
Now, if you have read my books and essays on the subject of Solomonic magick, you know the shamanic roots of the grimoires have been a major focus for me. I have done much to reintroduce Western occult students to the Solomonic system as a form of “urban shamanism” or folk-magick divorced from the trappings of the later lodge-style systems of magick.
And I am proud to say that Jake, with his attempts to redefine the modern misconception of the goetic tradition, has been a co-conspirator with me in these endeavors. I dare say that each of us considers himself a modern incarnation of an obscure type of Western shaman.
Where Jake and I differ is that I am also a practitioner of Golden Dawn lodge-style magick. Jake has his own roots in Thelemic lodges. But where I find beauty and relevance in my order, Jake did not have the best of experiences in his involvement with secret societies. For him, the lodge was something that he needed to cast off in order to progress in his own quest. (I’ll save what my lodge has meant in relation to my quest for later.)
I don’t know if I have successfully gotten all of us on the same page, but at least try to keep the above in mind as you read the following manifesto recently published by Jake:
Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry & bogus history
This is close to an outline manifesto, relevant to the POV of my writings and distilled from over 4 decades of involvement in magic, public and private. I’m sure many will reject it out of hand, or mount a defence of aspects of occultism it attacks – but nothing said here is unconsidered; while the unquestioning retention of what it opposes desperately requires critique. Some of it explains why I’m a controversial figure, who many traditionalists find too radical, and ‘post moderns’ consider old fashioned. These easy dismissals are neat ways of avoiding important issues, when in fact the similarities between the extremes are more extensive than the differences, which is part of the problem, as I outline below.
*Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry and bogus history in modern occultism*
The historical links between goetia and shamanism are very strong. If you are familiar with the ‘Greek shaman’ thesis of Burkert et al, ‘goes’ was originally the Greek for shaman, especially as psychopomp. Funnily enough the same word, in its later devalued sense could also mean ‘witch’. Properly understood goetia is – essentially – the one authentic and continuous link the modern Western tradition has with the past, and that includes modern witchcraft (as I believe Hutton pointed out, and he is certainly right historically speaking).
There are various reasons I find the ‘Masonic’ model a dead loss in the many, many areas of modern magic where it applies. I see two reasons for Masonry in magic, one good enough, the other p*** poor. The good enough one was as a cover for free thinkers in an age when – for example – non-attendance at Anglican church was an imprisonable offense in England. That time is over. The other I will come to later.
The whole Secret Society model is not only unhelpful, but actively counter-productive. It is the principle reason why so much energy is expended fighting tiny little wars between factions (between witch groups, between rival Golden Dawns, between thelemic groups etc etc). Energy that could be better spent elsewhere – like incorporating the real advances in recovering our tradition made possible by *non-secretive* sources like academia. Indeed, one reason parts of the grimoire community are advancing faster than any other area nowadays is that it doesn’t automatically include this model! Which, whether in Magical Orders or Witchcraft leads to infighting, stagnation and parochialism. I also have no more time for ‘invented history’, which the entire occult world seems to rely on to an alarming extent. But lets start with secrecy.
Nothing I’ve heard from witch groups or magical orders in the last forty plus years has led me to feel they possess *any* privileged information – let alone insights – regarding goetia. Its been more of the same for decades, indeed since the C19th it has hardly moved at all – at least, not among occultists.
From my perspective, what I’ve learned about goetia in the occult world as manifest since the C19th is very unimpressive. Even if someone is jealously guarding material from deeper into the C18th/C19th it still lacks a lot of context, info and insights now available from modern scholarship, the papyri etc. Things have stood still for so long that modern research has got further along without them, and they don’t want to catch up! Where magic is going is not like where it has been since early modern times, but very few have caught on to that.
Which brings me to the Bertiaux/Grant end of the spectrum, what I call ‘dark fluff’, a major epidemic in recent modern occultism. There are so many ‘darker than thou’ types out there playing silly games with the Qliphoth, Necronomicon, Atlantean initiations and such. The grasp of the roots of magic in this ‘niche’ is even more bogus than the ‘occult establishment’ of the C19th and its offshoots. Indeed, they are much more similar to that establishment than they imagine. Spookying up the Golden Dawn, Crowley and modern witchcraft with a dash of Lovecraft and Qliphoth etc is no more informed about the real roots of Western magic in goetia. Its just more of the same in all but the most superficial details.
Which brings me to the other aspect of ‘why we used masonry’. It was as a *substitute* for elements of the magical tradition we’d either lost, or felt uncomfortable with in a more orthodox religious environment than currently exists. Virtually every western school has relied on Masonry to fill in the gaps for so long that they are no longer very interested in recovering what it was substituting for. There is so much Masonic bathwater that has to go to make room for real babies in the bath, and change frightens people. Hence bogus history and Masonry predominate, even though there is much better information and different structures available.
The *real* roots of what has been called ‘black magic’ by later philosophies and religions, is in fact an incredibly rich tradition distinct from them, *not defined by opposition to them*, or even reliant on similar terms (qabalistic or neoplatonist).
In short, through clinging to bogus history and the secret society model, we are selling ourselves very short indeed as Western magicians.
I quickly responded to this manifesto with my own defense of “secret societies” and the lodge-style systems of magick – as you can read here, and here. (Really, the entire thread is worth reading.) To summarize some of the major points I made: I do not find the magickal lodges to be outdated or irrelevant in the least. I personally see them as going though something of a Renaissance. They are sharing information with one another as well as opening themselves to what outside traditions have to teach – in effect overcoming the very shortcomings Jake describes in his manifesto. While such mistakes have certainly been made in the past, and even some groups may continue to cling to them, they are not intrinsic to the very structure of magickal lodges as Jake suggests.
Before long, this story was picked up by the enigmatic “Watcher of the Dawn” (Goetic magician slams out of date “secret masonic” magic), and even turned up on Nick Farrell’s Blog (Purging masonry from the Golden Dawn). The comments over on Nick’s blog are worth checking out – with folks like Peregrin Wildoak and even Tabatha Cicero speaking up.
If you do look into the responses made by me and other Golden Dawners like Nick and Peregrin, you might be surprised to discover most of us agree with a good bit of what Jake has to say. Secret societies that close their doors and their minds to cross-fertilization with outside sources do become stagnant and drift into irrelevancy. We (well… most of us) are fairly unimpressed with the bogus histories and lineage claims that were popular a century ago. We are equally unimpressed with what Jake is calling “dark fluff.” And, yes, those old 19th Century occultists did get a heck of a lot wrong where it came to subjects like goetia.
I think Jake may have been surprised (pleasantly so, I hope) to hear from so many Golden Dawners who did not fit his idea of stodgy close-minded tradition-hoarders. Contrary to what he thought, we are open to new ideas, new scholarship and new ways of doing things. Take for example this gem I shared with him on the Solomonic group:
For example, when we do angelic invocations in the G.D. Temple my wife and I (with our funky ATR background) bring food offerings. When we first did this, it was quite shocking to the other members of the Temple. They didn’t know what to make of it. But once they saw it in action, they got it.
One time, we drew up an astrological chart for a summoning we intended to do, and discovered that one Planet was in direct opposition to the Planet we intended to work with. No one was sure how to handle the problem – except for me and Carrie. We came to Temple that day with *two* food offerings. We opened the Hall, then went to the West, made an invocation to the opposing Planet and laid out the offering for those spirits. Then, we went to the East and did the same for the Angel we intended to invoke and made our offering there. Then we went on with the summoning without a hitch. Everyone in the Temple was floored.
And this, my friend, was happening in the *Mother Temple* of the HOGD. And that is the kind of thing I’m trying to get across to you. According to your view of my tradition, this could never have happened. Carrie and I would have been restricted from doing it, or asked to leave if we attempted it. And, yes, 30 years ago that might have been the case. But we were in fact given full lee-way to do this, and everyone there learned something from it.
It *is* happening, Jake. Things are not as stagnant in the orders as you think they are.
It was in response to this kind of thing that Jake penned his Open Letter to the Golden Dawn. For now, I’ll give you a break (and some time, if you’ve a mind to, go read the other blogs and forums I’ve linked in this post). In the next post I will share Jake’s Open Letter and my responses to it.
Greetings Faithful Readers!
Nick Farrell recently posted a blog about the upcoming Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls anthology. He called the post Flying Rolls Book Reveals Golden Dawn Community Secret. The big secret he believes has been revealed can be summed up in this quote from the post:
Wading through [the list of contributors to the anthology] and the wide range of Golden Dawn groups that these people belong you start to realise that the level of cooperation that exists between these different orders must be considerably higher than many would have you believe.
If you’ve been around the various communities of the Western Mystery Tradition for the last 20 years, then you likely know what Nick is talking about. I am sad to say that all too many people outside of the Golden Dawn have the impression that our Tradition is overflowing with arrogant jerks who would rather call each other names and accuse one another of outlandish crimes than concentrate on the Great Work.
I’ve personally run into any number of dedicated occultists who proclaim they wouldn’t give a Golden Dawner the time of day. Or even that there must be some something flawed in the G.D. system because it “keeps producing spiritually damaged people.” Perhaps you even feel this way youself.
And that is a very sad thing – becaue the reality of the Golden Dawn is so much different than what you might have seen on the internet. (Is that really a surprise?) I’ve been involved in the greater Golden Dawn Community now for the better part of 20 years – and I have yet to see any of the hateful in-fighting that has been proclaimed so loudly on the ‘net.
Oh sure, there have been disagreements. There have been expulsions. There have been groups that split up due to irreconcilable differences. I’ve even known individuals that flat out decide not to work with one another ever again. All of this is expected from any movement of this size and scope. But, what is the overall reality of the movement itself? Is there really something “wrong” with the Golden Dawn? Does it really produce an endless parade of overblown egos?
Not that I’ve seen in real life. While the hate gets spewed around by a few trolls on the internet (most of them from outside the Tradition), I’ve seen the various Golden Dawn Orders and independant Temples quietly getting along, and largely ignoring what is going on in the cyber-world. As Donald Michael Kraig recently posted on Facebook:
I’ve had the honor of knowing some of the people who have written for this [Golden Dawn Commentaries] book. It’s true. There really are no “Golden Dawn wars” today. There will always be those who try to invent them in order to develop an us-vs-them mentality—a common method used to create cults. There will also be disagreements—that’s why there are different GD groups. I take that as a sign of the vitality of the tradition and the passion of those who participate. But most real GD people I’ve met look at those trying to spark controversy and wars that don’t exist and think of what Puck said in Midsummer’s Night Dream: “What fools these mortals be.”
So Don feels the same way Nick and I feel – and we aren’t alone either. Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that the true fraternity of the Golden Dawn community has been slowly seeping onto the internet.
Take, for example, the 30th Anniversary of the Consecration of the HOGD Vault of the Adepti that took place last year. A document was drawn up to offer congrats and thanks to Chic and Tabatha Cicero for their work and dedication to the Golden Dawn Tradition – and it was signed by dozens of folks from a host of different Orders, Temples and some unaffiliated individuals.
Later, a Facebook event was created for the same Anniversary – and what started out as dozens of well-wishers turned into hundreds as people from all walks of life added their names and thoughts to the list. (Click on the link, and you can add yours as well!)
Most recently, the Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls anthology was announced – a book created by members and leaders of several different Golden Dawn groups, all working together to create something worthwhile for students everywhere.
And it isn’t going to stop there, either! Even now there are projects in the works that transcend all Order affiliations and philosophical differences and illustrate that the Golden Dawn Community is working together in harmony toward the Great Work, with all of you in mind.
So the next time you run into a Golden Dawner, before you jump to any conclusions about what kind of person he or she might be, consider the old addage: “By their fruits shall ye know them.”
Greetings Fratres et Sorores!
Ok, so it must be the right time of year for new anthologies containing brand new essays from yours truly. ;) Kerubim Press has just announced an upcoming book entitled Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls by the Golden Dawn Community:
Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls – Front Cover
This new collection contains all of the original Golden Dawn “Flying Rolls” – which are extracurricular lectures and essays on a variety of occult topics that circulated among adepts of the original Order. These Flying Rolls were written by adepts like Wynn Westcott, Samuel Mathers, Moina Mathers, Edmund Berridge, Florence Farr, Annie Horniman, J.W. Brodie-Inns and Percy Bullock.
But Waite! There’s more! ;) Each and every Flying Roll is followed by a brand new commentary intended to elaborate upon the topic of the Roll itself. Some of them serve to clarify what is in the Roll, while others add to it with updated modern views. And the authors included here are no less impressive than the Flying Rolls’ original authors. You’ll find plenty of recognizable names like Chic and Tabatha Cicero, Peregrin Wildoak, Sam Webster, Joseph Max, Nick and Paola Ferrell, Samuel Scarborough, Eric V. Sisco, VH Fra IOV, Frater Yechidah, Ian Cowburn and Morgan Drake Eckstein. And many up-and-coming authors such as Deanna Bonds, Lauren Gardner, Jayne Gibson, Christopher Bradford, Liza Llewellyn and Rachael Walker. Plus, of course, me.
And that merely scratches the surface of the good folks who contributed their time and work to this anthology. This book is the end result of one of the most massive inter-Order cooperative projects in the history of the Western Mystery Tradition. Almost every major Golden Dawn Order – and a few smaller groups and private Temples – came together in a spirit of community and fraternity to make this book a reality.
Click here for the full announcement from Kerubim Press.
I have made two contributions to this project. The first goes along with Flying Roll XX: The Elementary View of Man. However, what I have written is not a mere commentary upon the Flying Roll, but is in fact an updated re-write of the original Golden Dawn lecture Ritual U: Man – Microcosm (which is necessary to read and understand in order to grasp the concepts of Flying Roll XX). Man – Microcosm is an often-overlooked lecture that was part of the original adept curriculum, and contains some of the Order’s most important teachings on the human soul, qabalistic psychology and the Great Work itself. My hope is to revive interest in this particular lecture, and re-establish it as a foundational study for all students of the Golden Dawn.
My second contribution is a commentary upon Flying Roll XXXV: On the General and Particular Exordium of the Z Documents. The General and Particular Exordium is an introduction of sorts to the Z Documents – the secret wisdom and symbolism of the Golden Dawn’s Magick of Light revealed to Mathers by his spiritual contacts known as the Secret Chiefs. They are possibly some of the most profound and useful pieces of received knowledge in the entire Western Mystery Tradition. However, few Golden Dawn students understand what the Exordium is supposed to mean. It is essentially a Gnostic poem intended to “set the stage” for all the mysteries revealed in the Z Documents. Therefore, I break down the Exordium and explain what it means in Gnostic terms, and how it reflects on the mysteries of the Golden Dawn.
Fratres et Sorores, you do NOT want to miss out on this one!
Greetings Ye Seekers of Gold!
So my last couple of blog posts have been about magicians facing (and dealing with) various hardships that life on Earth naturally brings about. And one of the primary examples was poverty – especially since many occultists prefer to remain relatively poor (as compared to, say, a corporate/criminal CEO), and because so many who just “don’t get it” view poverty as some kind of proof that magick isn’t worth the wood the wands are made from.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me that the discussion has turned specifically toward money magick. Don Kraig talked about it a bit on his blog, Morgan Eckstein referred to it as well. (See my previous post for links.) Even Nick Farrell has weighed in – so don’t miss out on his insightful post.
Meanwhile, it was the recent contribution on Alex Sumner’s blog that has inspired me to make this post on the subject. In Alex’s post, he relates an anecdote I have come to call the Tale of the Lottery Enthusiast – wherein he makes some vitally important points on the subject of money magick and how it really works. I find it to be more than worth repeating here in full:
It so happened that I was having a good-natured discussion with fellow members of the Illuminati in a pub about whether it was possible to use our combined magickal skills to collectively win the Lottery. Or more to the point, the other people at the table were having a discussion, whilst I was trying to eat my dinner.
The discussion was getting quite heated between one person who insisted that we try it, and just about all the rest who were saying “No, it’s not possible,” etc. I finally finished off my food. “I have made a study of people who have cast successful money spells,” I said.
The Lottery-enthusiast was arguing so enthusiastically that it was several seconds before someone realised that I had said something interesting. “Go on, Alex! What is the result of your study?” they said.
“Well,” I said, as everyone became silent, “I’ve collected examples of people who have successfully used magic to make money. They include:
- Professional people, getting an idea how to find themselves a new job;
- Having been invited to interview, using magick to boost their confidence and help them say and do the right thing at the interview;
- Businessmen seeking inspiration for how to bring new customers to their business;
- Inventors, ‘dreaming up’ a new invention;
- Songwriters coming up with the idea for a new hit song;
- Novelists coming up with the plot for a new story.
“In short: none of these people invoked Money itself, they invoked a Money-making opportunity. The point being that when the said Money-making opportunity appeared seemingly miraculously in their lives, they converted it into actual money in a conventional manner, to wit: hard work. This, incidentally, is why there are so many ‘arty’ people in the Occult or people with artistic flair - painters, writers, musicians, self-employed professionals, and so forth – because magick is all about drawing upon ones inner creativity.
“The one thing I have never heard of is people using magick to win the lottery. Therefore, if we were to use our magick skills to think up a money-making scheme, I’m certain that we would actually succeed! Whether we would be able to put the scheme into practice, however, would be another matter entirely. So my best advice would be to concentrate on the opportunity first, and forget the Lottery altogether.”
“But playing the Lottery is a money-making opportunity!” the gambling addict cried. At this point the argument erupted again. I immediately got the impression that no further good would come from trying to press my point, so I just let them get on with it.
Damn good points! And I couldn’t help but offer the following reply:
Alex, I think anyone who ever wishes to use magick to make money should read your tale of the lottery enthusiast. It hits the nail directly between the eyes. :) Magick can certainly be used to bring in money – either by bringing about a money making opportunity (Jupiter and/or Mercury) or even by bringing in a one-time windfall of some kind (Sol). But, either way, once it arrives it is then up to the magician to know what to DO with it.
Especially in the case of a windfall, if you don’t know how to work to make that money grow, then it will simply drain away – and fast. Anyone in the world who has money will tell you the same. You have to work for your money – not just to GET it, but also to KEEP it. If you want to be rich, then managing your money will become a full time job in its own right.
This is why so many occultists who have done money magick will tell you that you usually get just what you need and then it goes away again. It is because most of us don’t desire to do “money” as a full time job. Instead, we tend to ask for what we need and then go on with our lives until the next need arises.
Yet, there are times when magick is used to get a better-paying job. Or to attain money to invest in a new business, etc. In those cases, yeah, you get money that sticks around as long as you keep doing the work to make it stay.
But to my knowledge, no one has ever achieved the creation of the magick purse that has fresh gold coins in it every day.
Greetings to my students!
After I gave my Ceremonial Magick classes in North Carolina (six classes of material packed into two sessions!), one of my students asked me to take her to the store’s bookshelves and show her my best recommendations for further reading. Now, back home in Florida, we are reaching the last few classes of the course – where we finally begin to take all the basic rituals, correspondences and theory and put them together in rituals of practical magick. Once we are done, I suspct my current students are also going to want resources for further reading and study.
Even outside of my classes, I know many of you reading this blog are solitary practitioners. And I’m sure you would also like to know which books I recommend to futher your understanding of the Western Mystery Tradition and the practice of Hermetic Ceremonial Magick.
So, I’ve made this blog entry for both groups of students and practitioners. Much like the post I made concerning books about Babylonian and Semitic myth and magick, I will here gather the titles that I have found most useful in my own Ceremonial Magick studies – both when I was a solitary seeker and even still today.
We are very fortunate today, in that we have dozens of great resources that seekers in previous generations have had to do without. I hope you will find this list useful in your studies.
The Essential Golden Dawn : An Introduction to High Magic - Chic and Tabatha Cicero
A great general introduction to the Western Mystery Tradition as a whole. It traces the historical development of the WMT and introduces the student to many of the basic theories and philosophies behind our magick. Some of the basic rituals are also included.
Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts – Donald Michael Kraig
This is where it all started for me! When I was handed my first copy of this book, I was already practicing my own intuitive forms of magick (much akin to Hoodoo, really). But after just one look inside this book, I knew I had found something vastly important and powerful. I made up my mind then and there to put myself through the (at the time) Eleven Lessons – and the rest is history. This is not specifically a “Golden Dawn” text, but it does focus on Golden Dawn rituals and techniques, and I highly recommend it as an introduction to the practical side of the Hermetic Arts.
Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
The Ciceros created this resource with the solitary practitioner in mind. They gathered a very large amount of the Grade curriculum of the Outer Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, then expanded it with extra-curricular study material. Then they created a ritual process of Self Initiation by which the solitary seeker can progress through the Grade material. The Self Initiation rituals will certainly not make you a member of an Order, but they will introduce you to the forces invoked in each Grade of the Outer Order. There are even quizzes at the end of each Grade, so you’ll know when you’ve incorperated enough knowledge to move on to the lessons of the next Grade. This textbook is so useful, it is even used as a study guide by students of the H.O.G.D. itself.
Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
There have been several different editions of this text under different names. You can also find the material split between Creating Magical Tools and Ritual Use of Magical Tools. The above-linked version is the one I found and used many many years ago – in fact I think it was the first Cicero book I ever owned. It outlines in exhaustive detail how to build all the tools, furniture, robes, talismans and other ritual paraphernalia associated with Golden Dawn magick. Though you certainly won’t have to build everything you find in this book to practice at home, it contains enough to set up a fully functioning Traditional G.D. Temple. Plus, it gives you the magickal theory behind each tool along with the rituals to conscrate and use them.
The Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot – Tabatha Cicero and Chic Cicero
This is a Tarot Deck, but it does come with a book. If you’re going to get into Golden Dawn magick, you’re going to be using the Tarot. And this deck is specially made for use in Golden Dawn ceremonies. (I still prefer the Smith-Waite deck for divinations, but this deck can’t be beat for G.D. work!)
The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order – edited by Israel Regardie
This is where it all started – at least for those of us practicing the Golden Dawn today. After 1900, the original Order of the Golden Dawn split into several different groups. One of them became the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, which still exists today. Another became the Alpha et Omega, which closed its doors sometime in the 1940s. And another became the Stella Matutina – which was the branch joined by Israel Regardie. The Stella Matutina closed most of its doors in the middle of the 2oth century. (Only one Temple remained, but it had changed its name to the Order of Smaragdum Thallasses – better known as the Whare Ra Temple – and operated secretly in New Zealand until 1978.) Before the bulk of the Stella Matutina Temples died away, Israel Regardie decided to save the Tradition by publishing the Order’s papers. This decision was controversial, but most today agree that it saved the Golden Dawn. This book is that publication – so you can see for yourself where it all began. This was the book used by Chic Cicero to found his own Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – which is by far the world’s largest and most successful Golden Dawn Order today. This book also serves as the “advanced manual” that takes you to the next step beyond the Ciceros’ Self Initiation… book.
The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic – edited by Israel Regardie
A good companion volume to The Golden Dawn above. This book contains a lot of early Golden Dawn material that didn’t make it into the first book.
A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life – Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabatha Cicero
This is one of the books by Israel Regardie that the Ciceros greatly expanded and then republished for the modern student. It is an excellent exploration of the Tree of Life and the magickal and Hermetic concepts that it embodies. In my intro classes, I give you the basics of the Tree of Life – but this text will take you to the next level and beyond. It includes guided meditations to introduce you to the energies, correspondences, angels and other magickal beings associated with every Sephirah and Path of the Tree.
The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic – Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabatha Cicero
The is another Israel Regardie original, expanded and republished by the Ciceros. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorites. It outlines the psychological aspects of Qabalistic and Hermetic practice – that is how the material interfaces with and changes your psyche. While I am no fan of the “psychological theory of magick” that does not mean there is no psychology at all involved in its theory and practice. I describe it this way: Magick is not “a form of psychology” any more than an engine is “a car.” Yet, without an engine a car is just a dead thing and doesn’t get you anywhere. How magick affects your mind, and how your mind affects your magick, it extremely important to understand.
Godwin’s Cabalistic Encyclopedia – David Godwin
This is a wonderfully useful resource for anyone studying the Western Hermetic Qabalah. Godwin has gathered every Hebrew name and term he could find, given them in English and Hebrew characters, their Gematira values and explained what they mean. As an appendix, he has also included a copy of “Sepher Sephiroth” – which gathers even more Hebrew words and phrases according to their Gematria values. (Kind of a 777 for the Golden Dawn crowd.)
Prometheus Rising – Robert Anton Wilson, Introduced by Israel Regardie.
And speaking of understanding psychology, this book is an absolute must-read. It is an easy-to-understand operator’s manual for your brain – complete with exercises. And the concepts it teaches are, as I said above, extremely important to your own spirutal development and your successful use of that thing called Magick. ( I drew upon the material in this book in my own Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.)
Ishtar Rising: Or, Why the Goddess Went to Hell and What to Expect Now That She’s Returning – Robert Anton Wilson
See above. I consider this to be the second half of Prometheus Rising. And, as the title suggests, this book focuses upon the sacred feminine within all of us – and even explains why magick and witchcraft have returned to our culture in a big way. Highly recommended!
(NOTE: I will soon be adding a list of traditional Qabalistic texts to this list, such as the Zohar and Sepher Yetzirah. Stay tuned.)
The following books were not part of my own early studies into Ceremonial magick, but I believe they are potentially useful to today’s students:
Experiencing the Kabbalah: A Simple Guide to Spiritual Wholeness – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
“Kabbalah, a spiritual system grounded in symmetry and logic, is rarely addressed in a format that is suitable for beginners. Experiencing the Kabbalah goes against the trend, however, by presenting both historical and practical information on the Kabbalah that focuses on experiencing this ancient spiritual system rather than just reading about it. Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero accomplish this through a sort of ritual drama that they call “Walking the Tree of Life.” It characterizes each Sephiroth (different aspects of the divine) of the Kabbalah as a person, from the stable Malkuth to the enigmatic Kether, granting readers a fuller understanding of the Sephiroth and the paths between them. Experiencing the Kabbalah is an innovative guide for beginners as well as informative reading for adept practitioners.”
Making Talismans: Living Entities of Power – Nick Farrell
“Discover the secret keys and practical techniques to turn mundane objects into “living entities of power,” bringing real change in your life. By pooling magical practices from shamanism, paganism, the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn, and Dion Fortune, Making Talismans offers training and techniques for performing advanced magical talismanic operations.”
King Over the Water: Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn - Nick Farrell
If you are interested in the history of the Golden Dawn, this is a great place to start. This book explores the life and times one of the founders of the G.D. without the usual lens of myth and legend surrounding him. Spoiler alert! Mathers was a fallible human being like the rest of us.
Mathers’ Last Secret REVISED – The Rituals and Teachings of the Alpha et Omega – Nick Farrell
The Alpha et Omega is the branch of the Order founded by Mathers after the original group split apart. This book is a good companion to King Over the Water, as well as Regardie’s The Golden Dawn. It contains the rituals used by Mathers’ A.O. before it closed its doors in the 1940s. Here, you can see how things were done in the A.O. as opposed to what the Stella Matutina was up to on their side of the fence.
By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life – Peregrin Wildoak
“The Golden Dawn (GD) system of magic is the main source of the esoteric and magical wisdom and techniques practiced in the West today. While the rituals and bare teachings of the tradition have been published for sixty years, the inner workings and esoteric keys that empower those rituals have largely remained unpublished or unexplored in contemporary works. By Names and Images remedies this lack by providing detailed and clear instructions for the visualisations, spiritual connections and energetic practices required for every major GD practice and ritual, as well as several unpublished techniques. Focusing on the meanings and use of sacred names and practical techniques of visualisation, the book thoroughly explores meditation and divination, purification ritual, invocation and evocation, grades of initiation, and direct experience of the inner realms. Also covered is an explanation of the Qabalah and its use as a magical framework. While the book is sufficiently practical and clearly explained to be of huge benefit to a newcomer to magic, its primary aim is to allow people already practicing the Golden Dawn system to do so more effectively, and to be touched by the amazing spiritual blessings the rituals offer.”
This list is certainly not exhaustive – I could have included many further books by authors like Pat Zalewski, John Michael Greer and others. And I could have included even more by authors like the Ciceros and Donald Michael Kraig. However, I think this list is certainly more than enough to give you a sound start and a well-rounded understanding of the Golden Dawn and its magickal tradition. It will also help you to avoid wasting your time and money on books that are of lesser quality, or just re-hashes of what has already been written by the fine authors listed above.
There is also a lot of good material still in the works, too – so I’ll likely be expanding this list in the future. Meanwhile, if this list isn’t enough to keep you occupied, check out this post listing the best Golden Dawn, Hermetic and Rosicrucian blogs out there – so you can keep your eyes on the ever-developing Western Mystery Tradition.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Greetings Avid Readers!
The latest edition of Hermetic Virtues is finally out! It was published on June 24th, in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the consecration of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s Vault of the Adepti. It even includes the very same signed announcement I published here (and which has appeared on blogs and forums across the ‘net).
And what’s more, it also includes an essay by yours truly called Two Thrones for the Golden Dawn. In the essay, I discuss the mythical structure of the Hall of the Neophytes and why we place the Coptic-Egyptian godforms in their traditional positions. Some groups have made changes to these godforms (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I explain exactly why we choose to keep them where they where in 1888 when the original Order was founded. (What can I say? The HOGD is a traditional Order.)
I am especially proud of this essay because Tabatha Cicero made reference to an earlier version of it in a piece she wrote for the latest edition of the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. In fact, her essay is what prompted me to get this one completed and published at last.
There are also essays and reviews by such big names as Chic Cicero (HOGD), John Michael Greer (DOGD), Nick Farrell (MOAA), Sam Scarborough (OSM), Jayne Gibson (HOGD), Eric Sisco (SRICF) and many more. If you want to see a great review of the entire magazine, check out Peregrin Wildoak’s blog.
If you get a chance, make sure to drop a note of congratulations to the Hermetic Virtues team and give them kudos for their own five year anniversary. We haven’t seen a magazine of this caliber since Gnosis – so let’s hope they stay around for decades!
King and Man – But Mostly Man
One thing that makes the Golden Dawn great, in my opinion, is their humble origins. The founders of the Tradition in the late 1800s existed in an environment of secret societies with pretentious mythical origin stories – claiming direct lineage to ancient cults and guilds in Greece, Egypt, Chaldea and elsewhere. In truth, none of them had such connections – not even the Masons! Yet, if you wanted your secret society to be taken seriously, you had better find a way to establish some kind of connection to powerful mystical figures and groups from the past. This is really no different than the authors of the grimoires who found it necessary to sign names such as King Solomon, Enoch, Moses and even various Archangels to their own work. Or the authors of the Biblical books who wanted us to believe that Moses, Enoch, the Disciples of Jesus and other Biblical heroes had written their texts. It isn’t about fraud, its just how things were done at the time.
What makes the modern Golden Dawn stand out in this regard is their willingness to admit, without shame, that the stories of their origins are mythical and that their founders were very, very human. What matters to them is that the system, in and of itself, works as advertised. They look with gracious humor at the tales of Cipher Manuscripts, German Adepts and embodied Secret Chiefs (who nevertheless chose to visit only upon the astral). For them, true lineage rests within the continually burning flames of Western Qabalah, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism and other currents that are the true foundations of the Order and its teachings.
Nick Farrell’s “King Over the Water” is a shining example of this willingness to admit the truth. It is an honest and scholarly biography of a man who never became what he wished to be – nor what he wished others to believe he was. His contributions to the Golden Dawn cannot be overstated, but his opinion of himself most certainly was. Yet, the modern Golden Dawn goes right on using the material the man created – because it is sound and it works.
I strongly urge any student of the Golden Dawn to read this fascinating biography. Perhaps Mathers was never the sole link to the Secret Chiefs he asked his followers to believe he was. Perhaps he was never the all-powerful arch-wizard he longed to be. But that doesn’t mean the Secret Chiefs didn’t speak through him when it was necessary. And the modern students of the Golden Dawn should never fear to look upon their leaders – either yesterday or today – with an open mind and even a grain of salt. They are, after all, all human too.
King Over the Water