The Hermit’s Lamp: The Continuing Tradition of the Modern Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn   2 comments

by Aaron Leitch (Frater O.C.)

Originally published in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic:

The Hermit carries in his lamp the flame of the Divine Light. It is merely a small spark of the infinite Source, fallen here to Earth – “the Light that shineth in darkness, yet the darkness comprehendeth it not.” The Hermit holds the Lamp aloft, keeping that spark away from the floods, and flames, and shadows of the air that seek to overwhelm it, and high enough for aspirants to see above the shadows of the world. As a ship on troubled waters needs the guidance of the lighthouse, so do seekers of gnosis follow the distant glow of the Hermit’s Lamp.

I see in this symbolism a perfect metaphor of the Golden Dawn Tradition. Say what you will of the individual personalities of its founders and early members, or the several controversies and schisms that mark their early formative years, the Golden Dawn endures. It was created as a repository of the Western Mysteries; an attempt to combine the best of what all of its members had learned and practiced, and to pass that wisdom down through succeeding generations. They certainly butted heads time and again, and even went their separate ways more than once, but what they created was larger than themselves, and has refused to pass quietly into obscurity.

“By Names and Images are all Powers awakened and reawakened.” This is perhaps the most foundational tenet of Golden Dawn magical philosophy. Even if one group puts down the scepter for good, another can simply pick it up and invoke the forces anew. And, indeed, over it’s nearly century and a half of existence the Golden Dawn has never been entirely dormant. Even after most of the European Temples had closed – either falling victim to schism or the two World Wars – at least one well-hidden Temple continued to operate in New Zealand. (Smaragdum Thallasses Temple No 49 – known best today as “Whare Ra”, named for the house in which the Temple resided.) It remained active until late 1978, when dwindling membership (and the advanced age of its adepts) prompted its Chiefs to skip the autumnal equinox ceremony and close its doors forever.

But the Golden Dawn was not done! In 1977, a future branch of the Order was already being constructed by an American occultist named Charles “Chic” Cicero. No stranger to esoteric practice, he was already running a Thelemic camp of his own in Georgia, and had close ties to the head of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), Grady McMurtry. For a time, he operated his GD Temple alongside his Camp. However, as he has often stated, his heart truly belonged to the Golden Dawn Tradition.

While he began with no connection to the original Order, and had no way of knowing the secretive Whare Ra existed, his Temple was active and performing the rituals as published by Israel Regardie to “re-awaken the Powers.” Mr. Cicero even went so far as to construct a Vault of the Adepti, with the intention of exploring the Inner Order mysteries. Regardie himself was still alive and, as fate would have it, also living in America. Both men believed Regardie to be the last living adept of the original Order, prompting Cicero to contact the elder to let him know someone out there was still putting the system into practice.

And this is my favorite part of the story: It contains the one thing that, I believe, defines the Regardie lineage to this very day – and makes me proud to be part of it. Regardie’s response to Cicero was in no way what you might expect from an adept of an occult Fraternity. He did not patronize the younger man, nor inform him that his lack of a warrant made his “do-it-yourself” Vault ineffective. No, the response of Israel Regardie was (and I paraphrase here, from the letter he sent to Mr. Cicero) that he hoped Chic had a good team of Officers because he wanted to visit and give the Vault a go! Someone built an actual Vault of the Adepti, and Regardie just wanted to take it for a ride. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the response of a true magician.

Regardie did indeed make his historic visit, in June 1982, during which he consecrated that Vault, raised two people to 5=6 in it, and thus passed on the spark of his initiatory lineage (not institutional lineage, Regardie did not have the authority to offer a warrant) to the new American Isis-Urania Temple. After this, Cicero found himself dedicating more and more of his attentions toward the Golden Dawn, eventually leaving Thelema behind on good terms.

Thus, the Order of the Golden Dawn – as an active organization – had never actually gone dormant. The American Order had begun a year before Whare Ra closed, and became official less than four years afterward. It was just a brief moment in time when the Lamp of the Hermit flickered before flaring back into full life. Today, the Ciceros’ Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is a global organization, larger even than the original Order had been in its heyday. The Ciceros also grant certification to smaller groups to operate independent Temples of their own, without fear of legal threats from less reputable people claiming to be “the real” Golden Dawn. Add to that the vast library of books the Ciceros have published on the Tradition, and I dare say not a single GD lodge exists without some ties – direct, indirect, or inspirational – to the modern Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Sadly, I didn’t enter the picture (joining Isis-Urania in 1998) until after Regardie’s passing. Therefore, I didn’t get to witness any of those early days firsthand. However, most or all of this has been told and published by the Ciceros over the years, so there is little need for me to repeat it here in vast detail. I do know from letters, photographs, and anecdotes told by the Ciceros and many others, that Regardie was a close friend and mentor in their earliest days. I know they miss him dearly, and hold him in high regard to this day.

But Regardie’s presence isn’t entirely absent. I see him reflected in the personalities of Chic and Tabatha Cicero, and can plainly spot his influence upon how the Order is run. It is because of this I consider myself quite fortunate to have applied to this Order over any other. (Truthfully, I never actually considered any others.) I found at Isis-Urania an environment free of identity cults, internal politics, or vitriol toward either one another or the sincere aspirants we meet outside of our Tradition. And while one can expect as many personality conflicts and unfortunate social/relational situations as any group of humans must endure, I have not seen the Order produce people with unstable, deceitful, or vindictive personalities. When such people turn up, as they tend to do, they don’t last long and/or are not the result of faithfully following the system.

That is Regardie’s most enduring legacy. It is hardly because we believe he was some ultimate and unquestionable source upon the Golden Dawn Tradition. He wasn’t the only one to publish material concerning the Order. And, once the facts about Whare-Ra were discovered, we knew he was not even the last living Adept of the original Order. He was simply one link in the chain of Adepts that links all of us to the masters of the past.

What endures about Regardie is his “let’s take it out for a spin” attitude that lives on in the Order’s Chiefs today. I even saw it on the very first day I met the Ciceros, though I knew nothing of their backstory at that time. As Chic gave me a tour of the Temple (which is an ever-expanding museum in its own right), pointing out various objects of occult and historical significance, I could sense a kind of glee behind his words. It was less like I was taking a stuffy museum tour, and more as if we were a couple of kids and he was proudly showing me his best toys.

I found the same to be true when speaking with both Chic and Tabatha, who were enthusiastic to discuss the Golden Dawn and Hermeticism without either an air of superiority, or any attempt to “sell” me on joining their organization. Their motivations were not out of ego or some amorphous desire to be “the real Golden Dawn.” They are more concerned with putting the system to good use, so they can perform the ceremonies and have the visions and astral trips and all the stuff that makes being a wizard awesome. Like Regardie, they are the type of people who would rather take your new Vault for a ride than pick it apart. And what I saw during that first meeting hasn’t changed in over twenty years.

Not long after I joined Isis-Urania, I had the rare opportunity to see all three of the HOGD Chiefs in one place. I sat quietly and listened to them reminisce about the early days of the Order, and how quickly it seemed twenty years had passed. At that time, their goal was to “fill the Rose” – meaning to create enough adepts to fill the 22 petals of the Golden Dawn Rose: with at least three 7=4s, seven 6=5s, and twelve 5=6s. If it could be accomplished, and they were already close to that goal, it would mean the Order was strong enough to outlive its founders.

As I progressed through the Grades, and after I entered the RR et AC, I got to take part in the thirtieth anniversary of the Vault’s consecration. The Golden Dawn itself was nearing its 120th anniversary, a time we held to have special significance for the continuing Tradition. (“After 120 years, I shall open…”) By that time, the Rose had been filled and the Ciceros were laboring to establish and maintain several Temples overseas. It was also around this time they began to explore Masonry, where Mr. Cicero quickly rose up the ranks. He had joined in the hopes of learning more about the origins of the Golden Dawn, but I suspect he taught them as much or more about the Hermetic origins of Masonic symbolism. Tabatha Cicero was no less busy, as she came into possession of the documents for another fraternity with historical importance to the Golden Dawn – the Societas Rosicruciana in America (which a young Israel Regardie had joined in 1926) – and was working hard to re-organize and resurrect it in a modern form.

And that is the rest of Regardie’s legacy: the continuing and continually-expanding Western Tradition. Before the – let us say – late 1980s or so, the occult mysteries of the West had been narrowed down to just a few organizations, most of them Thelemic or Neopagan in focus. But thanks to the meeting of Regardie and the Ciceros, thanks to the dedication they have shown the Tradition over the decades, and to the writings they have provided for us, the original Golden Dawn Tradition not only survives, but in fact thrives. It has become a massive influence on modern occultism, as much or more than the old Order had influenced the occult revival of its day.

And don’t think the Golden Dawn only produces Adepts who write about the Golden Dawn! The tendency I have seen is for those who enter the RR et AC to tend toward specialization in one subject or a small group of related subjects. Some certainly dedicate themselves to Golden Dawn rituals and teaching; yet, others have become expert astrologers, or focused on geomancy, tarot, sacred geometry, the grimoires, Enochiana, folk magick, collecting and/or translating rare texts, crafting, various forms of art and music, the sciences, and more – many of them publishing and heavily influencing their chosen fields. I have to chuckle when I see someone declare the magical lodges are outdated and irrelevant in today’s occult communities, because such people are always unaware of what is really going on behind the scenes – where members are doing real Work that truly affects the world, but (as is proper for a secret society) most people don’t even know they are there.

Today, I sit on the dais as a Temple Officer as we bear down on the Order’s fortieth year. Our founding adepts are now elders themselves, having held the Lamp of the Hermit aloft for four decades, and gathered the aspirants of the next generation. And I have certainly seen some incredible people pass through our Hall. The legacies of Regardie and the Ciceros have already spread beyond the boundaries of the Golden Dawn, and there is no doubt whatsoever the Lamp will continue to burn brightly for generations to come. Khabs Am Pekht!


Aaron Leitch (Fra Odo Caosg)


Posted June 14, 2020 by kheph777 in golden dawn, Uncategorized

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