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.