Greetings fellow ‘Dawners! It is time for a brand new rant!
Regardie-bashing has become a fad, and I’ve had quite enough of it.
This is a problem I have seen growing for a long time now. But before I get into that, let me give some background:
The modern Golden Dawn movement got its start when Chic Cicero founded the new Isis-Urania Temple in the late 1970s. Before long, he established contact with the man who – at the time – was believed to be the last living adept of the old Order: Dr. Israel Regardie. Chic was building a new Vault of the Adepti, and he wanted Regardie to come by and inspect it for him. In the end, Regardie not only inspected it, but also performed the Consecration of the Vault and the first initiations within it. With that, the modern Golden Dawn was born, with initiatory lineage through Regardie back to the old order. Chic dubbed his new order the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it stands today as the oldest, largest and most successful G.D. organization in history. (It has far out-stripped the original order, which only existed between 1888 and 1903. And will soon be older than the post-schism orders of Stella Maturina and Alpha et Omega – both of which had all but vanished by the Second World War. There was also a third order that descended from the Stella Matutina and lasted much longer – but we’ll get to them later.)
However, keep in mind that Chic was/is an American occultist. He wasn’t too interested in being a guru, handing down dogmatic mysteries to be consumed by an adoring and unthinking cult. He wasn’t out to impress you with the deep mysteries he knows but refuses to share with you (due to “oaths”). Instead, he wanted his order to grow and thrive and for the Western Mysteries to be available to anyone who takes interest in them. To that end, he and his wife Sandra Tabatha Cicero (who would quickly become one of the Order’s three chiefs) have produced an impressive library of books about the Golden Dawn and Hermeticism.
Now over 30 years have passed, and the result of the Ciceros’ dedication and hard work are plain for all to see. Beyond the many existing HOGD Temples around the world, there are now dozens of different G.D.-based orders or independent Temples out there. Most of them have some connection to the Ciceros’ group – many were founded by former HOGD adepts, and/or are using the Golden Dawn name and system under our trademark. (This is freely-given legal protection, so others can run their Temples without fear of lawsuits from those who would “own” the Golden Dawn for themselves.) All of them have their own unique “take” on or approach to the system, but there is no Golden Dawn group in existence who has not benefited from the vast corpus of written material published by the Ciceros.
But this was supposed to be about Regardie, right? It is true that none of us would be here talking about the Golden Dawn today if it were not for Chic and Tabatha Cicero. Yet, if you ask them who they have to thank, you can bet the answer will be Israel Regardie. Having initiated into the Stella Matutina branch of the order just before the War, he bore witness to its decline and eventual fall. He knew that something drastic must be done to save the material from vanishing into obscure history – finally deciding to publish as much of the Order’s papers as he could gather. The few members who were still hanging on were polarized by this action: some of them were affronted that Regardie would break his oaths of secrecy and “profane” the Order’s secrets. Others were actually happy to have a printed version of the Grade Lectures and other material that, previously, had to be copied by hand. (To get a feel for this last point, just grab your copy of Regardie’s The Golden Dawn – yes, I know you have one – and imagine sitting down to hand copy the whole thing.)
Regardie’s book had a massive impact on the modern Western occult revival. Long before Chic Cicero came along, the book was being mined by Neopagans, Thelemites and just about every Western occult or mystical group you could name. (Margot Adler mentions this in Drawing Down the Moon.) And, it was that very book that inspired Chic Cicero to build his own Temple. Regardie came to see that Temple (and its newly-constructed Vault) and ended up giving legitimacy to what might have been little more than a camp of Thelemites and strippers in Georgia. Regardie became the initiatory link between the new Order and the old.
Give all of the above, it might seem strange that anyone involved in anything Golden Dawn would feel it necessary to bash Regardie – and by extension to insult my entire Order and lineage. Yet, it is happening, and I suspect it is mostly because the HOGD is so large and successful. Given its authoritative position in the greater G.D. Community, it is sadly human nature to want to “take it down a peg.” Some take the route of attacking Chic and Tabatha directly – though that’s a slippery slope because they are: a) beloved by nearly everyone and b) still alive. Regardie, meanwhile, is just some old guy who died before many of you were born (or, in my case, when I was just a little kid). He’s an easy target. Thus, we hear much about what an awful oath-breaker he was, or how he didn’t really hold the Grade we thought, or how he had no institutional authority to found a new Order, or that he never participated in any rituals, or that he was once a jerk to some of his Temple chiefs, etc, etc. Why I’ve even been told, point blank, that Regardie had no lineage to give!
And this is what I’ve been watching over the past few years. Specifically, it seems to be the popular thing now to be a Golden Dawner but to eschew Regardie entirely. He got it all wrong, they say. We have the real mysteries, they claim. They refer with disdain to the “Regardie upstart orders” and pretend that they represent the “real” Golden Dawn while the rest of us are merely children at play. It is insulting – not just to Regardie, but to the Ciceros and to my Order.
One of my largest areas of concern lies with another Golden Dawn group – that third off-shoot Order I mentioned but failed to name above. However, before I do I want to make something very clear: I’m about to start talking about some good people, and I don’t want to give the slightest impression that I have a problem with any of them or all of them collectively. For the rest of what you are going to read, please understand my tone is that of a brother bitching about his brothers – there’s nothing but love beneath it, and if you have anything bad to say about them we can step outside. ;) So, on with it:
The group in question is generally known by the name Whare Ra – though that was the name of the building housing their Mother Temple, while the temple’s official name was Smaragdum Thallasses (Emerald of the Sea). This was chartered in New Zealand as Temple #49 of the Stella Matutina, and (after the collapse of the rest of the SM) became the Order’s Mother Temple. Of the original Golden Dawn Orders (G.D., Stella Matutina, Alpha et Omega and Whare Ra), it can be said without question that Whare Ra was the most successful. Unlike its sister temples it did not close during WWII (thanks to being tucked safely away in New Zealand), and in fact continued to operate until the late 1970s. (Chic was building his Temple in America just as Whare Ra was closing its doors.) Their only failing – and they likely didn’t see it as such – was that they never opened further Temples and eventually stagnated before closing.
Fortunately, we know about Whare Ra today because the Order’s adepts didn’t stop being adepts merely because their Temple stopped holding meetings. Some of the elderly adepts continued to teach and share their mysteries with others who were pursuing the Golden Dawn tradition. You may recognize a couple of their names – like Jack Taylor and Frank Salt. While those men have long-since passed away, their students (even if never initiated into Whare Ra itself) have propagated their teachings. Just a few short years after the HOGD was established by Regardie (who we only thought was the last living adept!), Pat Zalewski made it publically known that the Whare Ra lineage still existed.
That’s a good thing, right? Damn straight it is!
But this leaves us with a bit of a problem: culture clash. The Whare Ra people are not American, and they aren’t so fast and loose with information as the Ciceros and those who follow in their footsteps. They enjoy that old-world feel for their mysteries. They love their secrecy, and their adept links to the past (Salt and Taylor) never went public like Regardie did. I would say that, for the most part, the Whare Ra people – folks like Pat and Chris Zalewski and Tony Fuller – feel as if they represent the last vestiges of the old Golden Dawn in the world today.
Before I continue, let me be perfectly clear yet again: neither the Zalewskis nor Fuller are out there bashing Regardie. That’s part of a larger trend that I think I covered well enough in the rant above. No, my real concern with the Whare Ra folks is that I all too often feel an “us vs. them” tone in what they say. Though never stated outright, they can come across as if they believe they are the “real” Golden Dawn while everyone else is “just following Regardie’s books” and can therefore be dismissed. The Whare Ra lineage doesn’t seem to have any love to lose for Regardie (it was one of them who stated Regardie had no lineage to give) and it comes through in what they say and write.
As most of you probably know, there have been a few internet trolls out there who have spent the last couple of decades trying to convince us all there are “warring factions” in the Golden Dawn. You’ve heard of “trademark wars” that in fact never happened. You’ve heard of decades-long flame wars, though no one can ever find the culprits. As I have stated over and again, this is all complete bunk. True Golden Dawn orders do not compete for members, nor do they even hold recruitment drives. (If you ever encounter a G.D. group that advertises or pressures you to join, just walk away.) And as for “warring factions”, the fact is that in reality the various G.D. Orders work together nicely and even do projects together. Yeah, I know that’s pretty damned boring in comparison to the fantasy that we are all powerful wizards having battles with one another in cyberspace and on the astral plane. Sorry…
But now I am concerned that we could be witnessing the rise of two actual factions of the Golden Dawn: American/HOGD and European/Whare Ra. Ideally, these would simply be two schools of the G.D. (and for now they are), but I use the word “faction” because there is a very real danger we could end up enemies. Not that I can imagine Pat Zalewski or Tony Fuller ever declaring themselves enemies of the Cicero school, but I do fear that if the “us vs. them” tone continues, we could see hostilities develop between the two schools within a generation or two.
I don’t believe for a second that the Whare Ra lineage represents the “real” Golden Dawn at the expense of the Regardie lineage. And, quibble all you want over whether Regardie was ZAM or ThAM, I do not buy the concept that he had no lineage to give. (Sure he wasn’t a 7=4 when he founded the HOGD, but then Mathers and Westcott weren’t 7=4 when they founded the G.D. either. Hell they weren’t even 5=6 – but that’s another discussion.) Regardie, flawed as he was, is our initiatory link with the old order – he’s our prophet or patron saint, if you will – just as Frank Salt and Jack Taylor are for the Whare Ra camp.
Let’s give all of these old dudes the credit they deserve – for without them what would any of us be doing right now? And, can we please remember to respect each other and treat one another as brothers? Yes, that means we’ll duke it out from time to time – but let us never ever allow it to become warring factions, or have one group look down its nose at the other.
If you want to see the Facebook thread that started all of this, see Regardie’s Supposed ThAM Grade by Tony Fuller. (It’s tone irked me, but he really does make a good historical point about one of Regardie’s papers.) Plus, Nick Farrell has also responded to this discussion with is own thoughts about Whare Ra and the dangers of factions arising in the G.D.: Whare Ra and the Modern Golden Dawn.
Stay strong in the LVX, brothers! :)