The Golden Dawn is far from “dead” or outmoded by other Traditions. Instead, it is still a living, breathing Tradition and is the direct foundation or at least the inspiration for many other Western Ceremonial Magick groups today that use the same structure and actually teach some of the same rituals. The original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn founded in 1888 was perhaps the most historically well-known occult Western Ceremonial Magick Order since it gave rise to most modern occult Orders and groups we know of today. Former members have also developed other more modern occult Orders, such as Aleister Crowley’s Astrum Argentum ( A:.A:.) The Golden Dawn Tradition is indeed still very much alive and well today with many different Golden Dawn and Golden Dawn-based Orders worldwide. Most of these function as independent Temples and Orders, but there are a few other types of Orders as well, with individual members and temples scattered across the globe that are affiliated with each other. Much of the work towards spiritual development in bonafide G:. D:. Orders is done on an independent basis by individuals supervised by teachers, as well as doing group ritual workings in a physical Temple setting. The Golden Dawn also has a very strong spiritual egregore that can be felt almost tangibly and a rich tapestry of history. Some of the original Golden Dawn rituals, such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, are done by many other Ceremonial Magick Paths that are not specifically Golden Dawn, such as Thelema and even Wicca. However, it is good to remember where core practices actually came from and how the Golden Dawn influenced later-created Orders, Temples and Covens. It puts things into proper perspective.
You may notice I am spelling “magic” with a “k”. It will be presented this way throughout this article. Many Ceremonial Magicians use this spelling to separate between magick done for spiritual reasons and stage magic, which is based on illusions. Just thought I would get this out of the way before going into more detail. There often tends to be confusion between Transformational or magickal forms of spirituality and stage magic performance. The spiritual forms deal with arcane energies and putting these energies to use for spiritual advancement, healing and more. Stage magic deals with performance of tricks whose secrets are unseen since a stage magician makes use of the understanding of blind spots in our outer perceptions filtered through our brains. This coupled with a diversion, the audience becomes fixated on what the magician wants them to pay attention to. This latter form of magic and the former are very different. The one thing they do have in common is that they both deal with what is not seen or perceived, by the naked eye. But that is as far as the similarities go. The Golden Dawn is a Mystery School and teaches High Magick for the spiritual advancement of its aspirants. High Magick itself is really just highly ritualized prayers, incantations and actions that follow the tenets of Western Ceremonial Magick and Alchemy from ancient Mystery Schools. These have been primarily handed down from ancient Greco-Roman, ancient Egyptian, Judaic and even ancient Chaldean areas eventually into Europe where it became more esoterically Christianized. Now, in modern times, Western Ceremonial Magick Traditions have spread across the globe, being taught in numerous Orders and Temples. There are also Eastern magickal Traditions and alchemy of Asia, but the Golden Dawn is a distinctly Western Tradition. It is an entire system structured using the esoteric, Kabbalistic Tree of Life model.
If the Golden Dawn system is followed correctly, with its practices and initiations done appropriately in sequence, taught by qualified individuals within an Order, the alchemical processes are allowed to manifest within the initiate in a positive and productive manner. However, if done inappropriately, it can spell disaster for an initiate. Some examples of the ineffective are; lack of continuity in the practices, doing the practices incorrectly, foregoing initiations and/or those being facilitated by unscrupulous or untrained individuals. Individually performed rituals, meditative practices, studies and Temple initiations all work in a synchronicity to assist in the speeding up of spiritual development. If any of these are omitted, the Alchemy cannot take place properly in the Golden Dawn aspirant to propel them forward on their journey in the Great Work of the Soul.
The Golden Dawn was intended as both an individual and group-oriented spiritual Path, with its very beautiful, complex initiations, vast corpus of occult theories, meditation & ritual practices, as well as structured grade system based on the esoteric, Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The Golden Dawn offers both group Temple work and intensive, daily individual practices. One might guess correctly that by the nature of being a teaching Order as well as social one, that the Golden Dawn is a very involved spiritual Path and system that can well take a lifetime ( or more! ) to finish. I have known other initiates that have been working in this Tradition for over 30 years and still have not finished the entire system! As for myself, I have been working in the Golden Dawn Tradition now for about 20 years, have been an initiate of multiple Orders, now co-running a successful independent Order for the last 5 years as well as initiatory Temple for the last 12 years. But despite all this, I believe that I still have so much more to learn! Those serious about the Golden Dawn are not in a hurry to finish the system and accept that it is perhaps a lifelong pursuit. We are all perpetual students, even when we are the teachers. The Great Work itself can take many lifetimes to accomplish, so there is no use in developing such an ambitious attitude that one thinks they can cram everything the Path has to offer into one specific time frame. Doing the Work consistently and with the attitude of wanting to manifest change in one’s life, even if that means persevering through some tough lessons and periods of personal darkness to emerge triumphant on the other side, is the right approach to the Great Work. We don’t shirk from personal darkness it when the going gets rough. If we maintain that we are working this Path for deep self-transformation, and our magickal actions reflect this, we become as the glorious phoenix reborn from its own ashes!
However, many seekers who embark upon the Golden Dawn Path do not finish even the Outer Order, much less the entire system. It takes a great deal of perseverance and commitment to its processes. It also takes trusting that the system works. Question it, yes, please do when starting out. But if an aspirant feels the need to keep asking where the physical “proof” is over and over again, it just might mean that this is not the right path for that particular individual. The spiritual world is filled with many subtleties since we are dealing primarily with energy, rather than regular manifestations of apparitions, and one needs to be able to discern these. Innate talents can indeed be honed, and we can train to become more sensitive to the unseen. But, just like an artist is in regard to talent, there has to be at least some natural inclinations towards an awareness of more than just our mundane existence. Magick, the REAL magick of the Golden Dawn Tradition, has never been for the masses and never will be. It is for the few who are so inclined to pursue it. It is not for those just looking for a power trip. It is not for those looking to win the lottery or control others’ minds. It is for those who seek to control their own destiny in life and to transform, from the inside, to become perfectly balanced, spiritualized individuals.
Unfortunately, in today’s times, people are seeking immediate gratification and ego stratification. Neither one of these are in line with the Golden Dawn purpose. In general, it seems that most people seeking a magickal Path these days just want to do the bare minimum of practice ( or just plain have someone else do the work) and see money just drop in their lap, love to just appear and all their troubles disappear as the result. The Golden Dawn is not about that. This Path about self-Transformation and learning lessons to expiate karma in order to become one with one’s own Higher Self and thus in turn, godhead.
The Golden Dawn is admittedly a difficult, yet extremely rewarding Path. It changes you forever. The Great Work is ongoing. I explain to new members of my own Order that instead of a ladder, with grades going up and up, the Path is really more akin to an onion or a spiral, representing the refinement of the Soul through the Great Work. There are quite a bit of rinse and repeat processes after different manners. This is where the self-discipline really comes into play. The spiritual alchemy unfolds in such a manner that lessons regarding one’s psychology are deeply ingrained into the persona. Indeed the way the grades are structured, there are multiple passes of refinement. In this way, the initiate produces and refines their own internal Philosopher’s Stone. This is what is meant by what we hear sometimes as “Internal Spiritual Alchemy”. There are of course more direct methods of Alchemy, including laboratory experiments of which some is also taught in the Golden Dawn in higher grades of the system, yet the main crux tends to be of the Alchemy of the Soul. Alchemy done with substances in a laboratory are considered complementary to the Inner Work. Direct, Sexual Alchemy is also another form of Internal Alchemy that can be complementary to the more advanced Golden Dawn practices, but I must stress that this is not something taught within the Golden Dawn curriculum. Nonetheless, WE are the laboratory. Our prima materia lies within US! The sooner people realize what the True Alchemy is and is not just some material object conferring immortality, the better!
The Golden Dawn practices and initiations, when done correctly, with the right attitude of students and initiators alike, produce a sort of speeding up of one’s karma and one’s spiritual processes so much faster than if someone has left this Tradition alone. This is not always something an individual is ready for nor comfortable with. The Work in the Golden Dawn takes a great deal of discipline and fortitude as well as keen intellect and curiosity.
Much can be learned and developed. However, trying to explain the energetic imports of the practices, the god-forms in a Temple and other denizens of the various planes of existence beyond the physical realm to someone who is starting out at a complete ground zero with the deer in headlights look on their face with regards to the arcane, is near impossible to do… if the person being taught has no personal conception or receptivity of anything except the tangible in the world of Malkuth. This is not considered a “what we see is what we get” sort of undertaking. It is highly spiritualized. Malkuth is the material world and although we use plenty of props, words and ritual actions, it would all be for nothing if we are not able to actually perceive what is not seen with the naked eye, but is felt within as without, and even seen in the astral planes, via the “Third Eye”. Initiates should have at least some sensitivity to begin with in order to perceive the Work being done and not get frustrated for lack of concrete, physical proof. We can help awaken dormant arcane abilities with the G:. D:. system, but we cannot create that sensitivity out of a complete vacuum. This Path is very psychological too. Examples of subtle impact on psychology in the Golden Dawn are the use of colors, scents, intonations and visualizations. Even the colors used in Golden Dawn implements, regalia and symbolic attributions have an impact on the subconscious mind as well as Words of Power and gestures. Everything is integrated seamlessly to everything else in the Golden Dawn. The connections are further elucidated by the 3 Pillar of Hermetic Arts and Sciences: Astrology, Alchemy and Kabbalah. Everything fits into these main 3 areas and are cross-referenced with each other all throughout the systems of the First and Second Orders. The Third Order is one of much debate these days. Some believe there are real, flesh and blood people who secretly comprise the Third Order and others believe it to be solely the Order of invisible Chiefs or astral Masters.
Mass media tends to influence general beliefs of the public about the occult in both fanciful and negative contexts. The media often portray the occult forces and magick as sensational, with all the sparks and fireworks you see in Harry Potter movies or in one of the multiple T.V. series out there such as “The Magicians”,“ The Order” or “ Charmed”. Real magick is not like this at all! It tends to be much more subtle. You need to be able to pick up on nuances in your energetic environment and your own psychology in order to remotely begin to understand it. The Golden Dawn is a very powerful system, and a Magician needs to use discernment on wielding that power, but it is secondary to having the right intentions of mastering one’s own Self. Golden Dawn magick is essentially not about controlling other people and external issues. Instead it is primarily about Transformational magick and High Theurgy, also called “High Magick”.
Usually, Golden Dawn practices are not used for low ( also called “practical”) magick either. Some G:. D:. practices can be adapted for this, but it is not the purpose of the Great Work to which all Golden Dawn Magicians should aspire to. There are also oaths taken from the very beginning of the probationary grade of 0=0 Neophyte in which the initiate swears to not use his/her occult powers for evil purposes. More oaths are taken in other advanced grades to this end and to the service of others. The Golden Dawn may be looked at by those who like to use labels, as a Balanced ( Middle Way) Path or a Right-Hand Path. The ultimate goal is to become consciously immortal via sublimation of the Ego to become one with one’s own Higher Self. So, yes, there is both a self-deification aspect and a submission to Divinity aspect. But, everything is always done in the spirit of the Higher Self and the “Path of the Serpent” ends on the right-pillar of Mercy before finally arriving at the Kabbalistic sephiroth of Kether. Therefore, the Golden Dawn is often considered by definition of the Tree of Life structure, to be a Right-hand Path in ceremonial magick circles by those who like to use labels are also experienced Magicians. I prefer to no longer use any labels myself as it seems the definitions of what is Right, Middle and Left can be very different depending on who one is conversing with, as well as those definitions being rather fluid. They seem to continually change; therefore, they are not a good reference. People love labels. We naturally like to categorize. We like to be segregated into communities of like-minded individuals to not feel alone in the world. I find this to be especially true of occultists. We are already on the fringes of society since what we believe in and do for our spiritually does not line up with mainstream religions. Many of us are not even religious and often if we are, we tend to be more eclectic and broader minded overall in our beliefs due to the esoteric concepts we absorb being applicable to multiple cultures and behind multiple religions, past and present. If you need more reference on the different definitions of Right, Middle and Left-hand Paths, please feel free to read the extensive article I published here on this blog about 3 years ago. The article explains the different ways people have devised what is Right, Middle and Left and how different the definitions are, depending on whom one converses with. It should clarify any questions you may have in this regard. It may also potentially confuse you more, since there are multiple criteria, seen from different perspectives of different groups. And this is why I no longer actually like to use the labels to describe the Golden Dawn Path. There is no one constant factor, only differences in philosophy and models. I suggest picking one category and sticking to it, or else discard the notion of Right, Middle and Left altogether.
However, if I were to pick a label for the Golden Dawn, I would use the term “Middle Path” since it is very balanced, and initiates do both Light and Shadow Work as well as both self-deification and submission to a Higher Power. We address that which pertains to the Pillars of Mercy and Severity in equal measure as well as the Middle Pillar. In Shadow Work we invoke certain occult forces that correspond to the various parts of the self to spiritually evolve and this is not always pleasant as we are faced with our Shadow Selves. We also invoke the Qlippoth ( inner demons) very directly to better understand the nature of these fractured parts of ourselves and to heal/ integrate them. However, a great deal of preparation is done for many years before undertaking the more direct ritual operations in this vein. This takes place in one of the higher grades of the Second Order of the Golden Dawn, known usually by the acronym RR et AC, which is a Rosicrucian Order at its core. Everything is done to always invoke the Higher Divine Forces first, before working with the Adverse Forces. In order for the initiate to be able to handle the Qlippoth directly and not suffer potentially serious mental instability issues, years of self-purification is done through stringent ritual and meditative practices with the backbone of a vast corpus of intellectual material to study and apply. We take these processes very seriously and good G:. D:. teachers tend to not encourage speed-boating through the grades. A wise student will see why this is the case. Real magick has the potential to be psychologically dangerous to the unprepared and untrained. I tend to eye-roll when I catch wind of others trying to train new folks to the occult in invoking forces that are adverse. I have seen this occuring in discussions primarily on the web. What you see online is not always genuine. Also, this Path was not meant to be on-line based and never will be. Physical Temples are part of the Tradition and are necessary for initiation and other group workings. I am a Traditionalist in this regard. It is also best to get a solid foundation in regular practices of “White Magick” namely purifications and and self-protection rites, before even considering doing Shadow Work. The Golden Dawn system allows for a gentle unfolding in this way. The lessons learned will be harsh enough before adversity is invoked directly. No need to make things even more difficult. As mentioned previously, this Path is hard enough as is and the majority of initiates don’t even make it past the first couple of grades. It takes years to truly begin to understand one’s own subconscious drives and consciously start to change them in order to become “More than human”. It is not a comfortable process, but a truly rewarding one!
The Golden Dawn hermetic practices, when undertaken with the right attitude by the initiate, and being supervised by qualified Adepts, does not lead to Ego inflation. In fact, it does the exact opposite! Some folks do not realize how uncomfortable that can become psychologically as we tend to all protect our own Egos. Getting beyond the Ego, acting in accordance with the Higher Self is a critical part of the Great Work. This takes a great deal of willpower and perseverance. However, there are certain points in the journey where the Ego can get potentially inflated only to be “knocked down”. It is the job of the initiate to ensure personal lessons are learned before moving on to the next curricular lesson and/or grade in an Order. Adept teachers also act as gatekeepers in the supervision of initiates to ensure the curriculum is being followed and there is progress along the right arc. It is also the job of the teachers/ initiators to also recognize warning signs and act, accordingly, offering help if the initiate is receptive. However, no one is to be pushed! The Golden Dawn Tradition is not a cult! Students embark and continue on this Path of their free Will and can leave at any time. Life situations may also warrant taking a break from the Work and initiating Temple as well for an extended period of time. Some people are also better learning from books all by themselves in a more solitary manner. However, in so doing, solitaries are missing some critical aspects to this Path and success is dubious. Even though we may be able to self-dedicate, we cannot actually self-initiate. This system of spiritual development is initiatory and alchemical at its core, and the initiation rites are specific to the use of other human beings to facilitate them. Initiations are designed to shock and challenge the candidate. This is how initiations have worked since ancient times in multiple Mystery Schools & spiritual traditions throughout the world. Technology and modern living has not changed the premise nor import of the initiations. Initiations are meant to shock and are meant to be challenging to the aspirant. Change is imminent for success.
However, if a student is unwilling to face themselves and change, then the entire alchemical progress is halted. In order to get to a point where the lower Ego answers only to the Higher Self and is thus properly controlled, there are many obstacles the initiate will encounter all along the way. These obstacles are represented more clearly in symbolism to the Adept, but it is not just Adepti that experience deep challenges. Most new initiates experience the severe side of the Current quite early, even in the 0=0 Neophyte grade and 1=10 grade of Juniorus. They experience hardships and as a result, some may think this is because there is something wrong with the G:. D:. system or that the Path is just not for them. Thus, they tend leave in the probationary 0=0 grade of Neophyte and still more do so in the 1=10 grade of Junoirous. Or they may get stuck working in the Sphere of Malkuth, the closest to mundane existence. Let’s take a more in-depth look as to why this happens:
Not everyone can handle dealing with their own negative Ego complexes being brought to the surface to be dealt with in a direct manner. This is a fundamental truth. Naturally, human nature dictates taking the path of least resistance in the pursuit of life, love and happiness. To go against this and willingly subject oneself to difficulties present in the mind and character of one’s being may seem masochistic, but this is similar ( but not a replacement for) what happens when people seek out psychotherapy in order to grow internally and become balanced. Getting everything cleaned out of one’s proverbial mental closet to allow for positive change is not necessarily pleasant at first. The rewards of breaking negative conditioning and habit patterns that are destructive or at the very least, causing blockages to success in life are hard won yet long lasting. There is no price tag for the rewards. They are priceless!
Some may also make the mistake thinking this Path is all about being able to wear a funky wizard’s hat and automatically have the power to influence other people and change external circumstances. This is an incorrect assumption. Divine Theurgy is the main area of working in the Golden Dawn, rather than thaumaturgy. Theurgy is also referred to as “High Magick”. It is about invoking Higher Forces such as those corresponding to gods, angels, devas, person daemon/HGA and submitting to those Forces in one’s Work for Self-Transformation. Thaumaturgy is also referred to as “low magick”and includes much of witchcraft or other Traditions whereby magick is used to primarily to change outer circumstances and one’s environment. This may or may not include control of other people. Of course, it is not unusual that external circumstances do change, for the G:. D:. initiate, since our Outer Self can reflect our Inner Self. Certain practices in the Golden Dawn may also be used for thaumaturgic purposes, but as aforementioned, we have oaths against using magick for evil purposes and practical magick is just not the emphasis. The idea is not to ever do practical-oriented rites on just some emotional impulse, when feeling negative, and spend time really thinking the process out of what is to be done and if it is really necessary or not. The mind should always validate the actions, not the emotions. In the Golden Dawn, we seek to control our base emotions, not submit to the more animal sides of our nature. Some may not like being hemmed in this way, but if an aspirant wants the greater rewards, he/she will work the system in the manner it was intended for. Then, and only then with the Magician begin to understand the system as a whole and its true aim… Freedom! Discipline is first and then freedom of the mind and spirit follows. We discard our mental shackles and negative conditioning to embrace Truth and acknowledge our spiritual sovereignty!
Since the GD Path is mostly about Inner Transformation, the reflection in the Outer world of an initiate does tend to shift and change in accordance with progress in the Great Work. As alluded to previously, this Path is also about working through life lessons and expunging negative karma. It is purification, vivification and exaltation of the Soul. Not everyone in the GD believes in karma and reincarnation, but I certainly do. The Alchemy of the Soul is not limited to just one lifetime. What we do in this life, directly affects the next. Again, this is my own personal beliefs, but many I have met along the way in the Golden Dawn through the years, also tend to believe this.
The Golden Dawn It tends to be a very ethical system due to its Rosicrucian roots. I do maintain that doing theurgistic ritual for prosperity, healing and related in a general manner for an entire Order and Humanity in general ( but not for specific individuals) without each and everyone’s permission, is fine. Specific individuals should give consent however prior to an Adept doing targeted healing rites specifically for them. Some ailments even may be a result of the spiritual Alchemy to expiate negative karma. When this is the case, trying to heal another may not work or may even backfire. It is not because the healer in inept. It is because there are other divine forces at work that are more powerful in manifesting in the subject’s life that should be there. We also do protection rites as well for ourselves and those we love since these consist of banishings and other rites. We tend to center on eliminating one’s own negative thought patterns and fears. That negativity which may be outside of ourselves cannot manifest fully unless we let it in! So, we aim at not letting it in and maintaining a realistic attitude, rather than succumbing to the paranoia some have heard about. It is good to be sensitive to the energies and unseen around us as this is a paramount requirement for being a Magician, but it is undesirable to get carried away and think one is being constantly attacked by nefarious unseen forces, when in reality, the issue resides within the psychology of the practitioner. Sadly, I have seen melomaniac and paranoia grip some of the supposedly most experienced Adepts. Most recover from this just fine as it may be a phase, but there are a few I have seen that seemed to get so caught up in their own delusions of grandeur that they seemed to never come back from this negative, self-elevated state. So long as there is someone around to help these souls to realize what is really happening and not the illusion, there is hope for them coming back to reality. If said people are left to their own devices with no oversight and a bunch of followers constantly feeding their egos, it can become a disaster fraught with mental illness. This path can be dangerous if the Magician is not careful and take appropriate measures to insulate themselves from delusions. The Golden Dawn does seem to dredge up much from the subconscious in order to be dealt with at times, very directly! Discernment is key to the Golden Dawn Magician. It was the well renowned Golden Dawn occultist, Israel Regardie that stated, here paraphrased “A Magician should have a good imagination yet be free from fantasy”. It is very important to e able to connect to your inner landscape effectively to visualize, yet don’t get carried away with the astral realms to the extent that you don’t have your feet planted on terra firma!
The Golden Dawn Tradition is indeed for the few, not the many. I cannot stress this enough…
…The G:. D:. current itself also makes sure of this. The “current” is the actual energetic egregore of the Tradition that has what seems to be a life of its own. It has this funny way of tossing out the insincere and undisciplined out on their arses. Some sooner, some later, but it is always inevitable. Those who are not serious, lazy, or have selfish intentions tend to fall by the wayside and go elsewhere as well as those who have figured out this Path not what they were really looking for. Some also start out with good intentions and get swallowed up in their own magical success. I have seen this happen with some people. They had no idea what had happened, even though others could see it plain as day. We are supposed to be transforming in a positive direction, not a negative one. But abusing the system or being unaware of one’s own issues can cause serious problems. In order to avoid this, taking a regular inventory of one’s life, down to the details is a good idea. Personally, I do reviews at the end of each and every day. I ask myself such questions as:
“How was I productive today?”
“ Was I unkind to anyone?” If so, why and can it be rectified?”
“ Have I been honest with myself and others?“
“Did I direct all my efforts today towards the accomplishment Great Work?”
“ Have I taken full responsibility for all my actions, magickal and otherwise?”
“ Am I putting up blockages to my own success?” If so, what are they and how can I change?”
“ Did I do all my spiritual practices today?” If not, why not?
Also, spiritual teachers and our brethren peers on the Path can be very helpful. Sometimes they will see things in us that we do not and provide encouragement and constructive criticism, having walked the Path before. A Magician is supposed to think critically for themselves and there is not much in the way of handholding in this Tradition, but every so once in a while, we could all use feedback! It keeps us in check. We are supposed to be in complete control of our emotions and also be able to direct our thoughts in constructive ways.
A logistics issue comes up often enough in the Golden Dawn with those who are interested in this Path : Many want their initiating Temple to be close to home and not have to travel out of the way to get there on a monthly basis or the work to be easy. If someone wants this Path badly enough and is in it for the long haul, they will make getting to a Temple and doing the practices as one of the top priorities in their life. The Great Work is not easy. Basic Golden Dawn practices are typically done on a daily basis in repetition, punctuated with more involved workings done on a less frequent basis.
Few people in our modern culture seem to be determined and passionate enough about their spiritual Path to do regular commutes and daily practices. GD Temples are not at all common. They are not in every city, not in every state or province, nor are they even located in every country around the globe. Golden Dawn community is not comprised of one, large-scale organization such as the Freemasons nor even the Ordo Templi Orientis, which is a social organization (not an occult teaching school) set up like “masonry for Magicians”, but also with a religious church also attached to it, comprised of thousands of members across the globe. Both of these organizations have a different organizational model than the Golden Dawn, but also operate on a degree structure, sans the ritual curriculum as in the G:.D:. If you are a Golden Dawn student and happen to live within a few hours of a G:. D:. Temple, and are a G:.D:. initiate, you are considered very lucky indeed! It does not happen often. I myself have had to travel extensively out of town, state and even country at times for many of my own initiations on my own time and dime. It has been a sacrifice of time, energy and money. Many people don’t want to sacrifice much of these at all. Again, this Path is for the few, not the many. Anyone who tries to commercialize and monetize it is not genuine in their intentions.
Journaling is also done by the Golden Dawn initiate on a regular basis with reports sent to teachers to indicate progress, how the initiate feels when doing the practices, afterwards, the effects seen in daily life, and events that are asynchronous in nature to the Work being done. Other written works may be assigned at the discretion of teachers and administrators during certain intervals. Some Orders request submitting a daily-maintained occult diary and some only require journal reports that summarize with some detail for a certain number of weeks or month at a time. Therefore, between the journaling, testing and the type of study material, it is for higher than average intelligent individuals and for those who don’t mind writing something on a regular basis that someone else will see. There is also the aspect of artistic craftsmanship. You certainly don’t need to be a good artist to be a Golden Dawn Magician, but you should be someone who at least does not mind creating crafty items. We make many of our own ritual implements and charge them energetically through ritual. We also have many visuals and symbols to reference and meditate on. Some G:. D:. Magicians have not done any crafting in their life prior to the Golden Dawn and actually learn new artistic skills by making implements and charging them. It is the effort that counts, not how great the tools look. Also, tools are not magickal without the energy of the Magus, having no power by themselves. This must be added through consecration and usage in ritual. Through the years, I have seen some students get hung up on the toolmaking and not enough energy put into other areas of the system. They get slowed down by making “stuff”, being insecure in artistic abilities. It is wise to remember that the Magician and the practices come first, artistry comes after. Being a great craftsman is not necessary. Put forth the best possible efforts and all will be fine. The more energy put into everything we do, the better the yield of results. Any tools a student creates and consecrates will be special just be the virtue of putting in personal energy to do so.
This system of spiritual development is vast, complicated, and very beautiful! I have no personal doubts that the founders of the system were given divine instruction! Everything integrates so seamlessly despite its complexity.
This Path requires a great deal commitment and the benefits are not always obvious early on. Magick is exponential in nature. The more we practice, the easier it gets to deal with the energies and the greater the personal rewards will be. Many just do not stick around long enough to reap the real benefits of the Golden Dawn system. We live in a society of impatience and desire for immediate, tangible rewards. Spirituality does not usually work that way. If you just want immediate tangible rewards, then perhaps obtaining good-paying employment is a better solution, take a nice vacation, eat a delectable meal or go shopping . The Golden Dawn system is about the Alchemy of the Soul and is deeply rooted in psychology and symbology as a Mystery School. It is certainly not about immediate, self-gratification nor ego stratification. That’s right. The Golden Dawn is a Mystery School. And like all schools, regular study, practice and testing on curricular material are done. Many people don’t like school or else do not have the time for it.
Finally, there are just those like in any spiritual group, who find that this Tradition is not their cup of tea and are drawn to other types of spirituality instead after “sampling” the Golden Dawn. This is fine. As aforementioned, this Path is for the few, not the many. Members should be able leave anytime they want to without any pressure and may be eligible to return if they were members in good standing….at least in the Order I help to facilitate. Most other Orders with decent leadership that are not corrupt and trying to turn their groups into cults of personality will not take affront if someone takes a sabbatical or leaves. It also may be the sheer amount of Work and selfless service without a bunch of public recognition that tends to be off-putting for some folks. This separates the wheat from the chaff; the men from the boys; women from the girls, so to speak in this Tradition.
Some people however do actually prefer cults of personality if they are looking to follow a more guru-like authority, but the Golden Dawn is not a system set up for a discipleship. If you are in an Order whereby one person hogs the ball and it seems to be fostering a cult of personality around one or just a few select members,run! That is a sure sign of a corrupted group. Also, people often want to be publicly recognized for the work they do or get some sort of monetary reward no matter what the work is. This is a knee-jerk reaction to the way our modern society works. The Golden Dawn student does individual curricular work, which is loosely supervised by a teacher by ways of magickal journals/reports, theoretical exams, and may require ritual proficiency testing in person as well. Instruction is also provided orally in Temple some of the larger Orders offer classes as well. A solitary practitioner does not have the benefit of any these, so it is like they are taking stabs in the dark. Some applicants in past and present have referred to the prior solo experience as “taking stabs in the dark “verbatim. I couldn’t agree more with this. In fact, most of the Golden Dawn initiates in my own Order have worked as solitaries for many years prior to becoming initiates, including myself. In fact, it is my experience with my own Order, that the majority of candidates have already been working some of the more basic practices that are published. However, I compare the Golden Dawn alchemy to a recipe: You need more than just the ingredients to bake a cake. You need to know the amounts of each ingredient, what sequence to add it to the recipe, what temperature to bake it in an oven and for how long.
As a solo practitioner, there is no oversight in the Work, no interaction in a Temple setting nor ability to be part of a solid egregore, and we can fool ourselves into thinking we have accomplished more than we actually have. It does take a certain degree of humility and trusting those who have walked the Path before, just as you would trust a college professor to know their stuff! This may involve not hearing everything we want to hear. Honesty is the best policy. A teacher that cannot spot trouble and offer constructive criticism, as well as the praise, is not a good teacher. Likewise, a teacher who does nothing but criticize and try and tear down the Ego of a student, is also not doing what they are supposed to. We are supposed to be balanced in our approach to instruction and administration, not being too Severe nor too Merciful. This is in accord with the Pillars of Hermes and Solomon, two important symbols in the Golden Dawn and in Western Ceremonial Magick in general. The Golden Dawn Path is one of Balance.
For example, almost 20 years ago when I first started on my own Golden Dawn journey as a full initiate, one of my first teachers questioned how I was doing one of the practices after reading one of my journal entries. He was genuinely concerned about how I was moving the energies I was working with, since there are right and wrong ways of doing so. I had first learned the particular rite in question from a book from a well-known modern occult author and had practiced it for years prior to becoming an initiate in an Order and then re-learned it in an Order later on with added oral instructions regarding more than just the how to’s. Instead of being threatened by the input, I accepted that perhaps I was not doing the practice 100% correctly as I was relatively new to the rituals and entered into a friendly dialogue with my teacher. It turned out I was doing it correctly the whole time, but I was not as clear as I could have been in my supporting journal report about my method, so more clarification on how I was dealing with the energies was requested by my teacher.
The point of this is to exemplify the importance of having good instruction. You will never truly know if you are doing things the right way if you go it totally alone. There are nuances in even the most commonly published, basic rites. Being solitary may work out fine for other Traditions that are more suited for completely solo workings out in the woods somewhere or when working with a private shrine, but in most Ceremonial Magick Traditions, there are so many concepts to be learned, intersecting symbology and subtleties, and “dead languages” not to mention that there is no replacement for genuine, in-person Temple initiations. It is better to be in a group with people who have the credentials and know what the hell they are doing, than to keep on doing something wrong and deluding oneself that it is right just because one can with no oversight. Discernment comes with time and practicing the correct way.
Let’s face it- We do not teach nor “pass” ourselves through curriculum in grade school, high school nor in higher education, such as college. We do not teach ourselves how to drive a car. We do not teach ourselves even how to eat as an infant. All throughout life, we are learning from others and hand’s on is usually the best way. However, as adults in the modern world, we can make our own decisions about what our spirituality should be. We are all very lucky in that regard. So, for teachers and initiators in the G:.D:., we always must keep in mind that people are in the group of their own free will, can leave of their own free will and in this Tradition, we only allow legal adults to become initiates. This is due to the level of personal responsibility and independence needed. One student of mine recently made some educational correlations in regard to my own Order: Completing the Outer Order Elemental grades are like getting a Master’s degree in Ceremonial Magick. This is because it is fully operational in the Outer, rather than just study alone as well as somewhat accelerated. Completing the Second Order is like getting a PhD. In Ceremonial Magick. Very few people make it to the Second Order. This is a fact. I did not realize just how rare this is until I went to a Second Order event almost a decade ago sponsored by one of the so-called international Orders that had been around since the 1990’s. There were few Adepts present, including the Order leadership and most were there to finally get initiated into Adepthood after several years of working the Outer Order curriculum and initiations. This small group was part of an Order that supposedly had hundreds of members. We were literally the 1% *no political pun intended* actually more like the 0.5%! I am inclined to think this is not that unusual for Golden Dawn groups that have quite a bit of operational magick taught in their Outer Orders. The Golden Dawn is considered to be a bit of the elite and heavyweight in terms of spiritual, Hermetic paths. So is the more modern Argentum Astrum. Both are intense teaching schools, certainly not for the dabbler.
Also, every Golden Dawn Order & Temple tends to do things a little differently. Each one has its own separate egregore as well as that of the Tradition itself. Just because someone learns a ritual from a publicly published book or a different Order, does not mean the particular techniques learned this way will fly in another Order. Attained grades in one Order also do not tend to “transfer” to another. Everyone starts at the probationary 0=0 grade of Neophyte no matter where they came from, nor how experienced they are. This also applies to Orders that are not specifically Golden Dawn, but are Golden Dawn based. Having been initiated into multiple Orders, I know this to be true. If a student starts in one Order and does not finish, they must start all over again at the 0=0 if they are new initiates to another Order and work through the consecutive grades just as a complete beginner would. Also, solitary work does not count for being able to skip grades either. What having experience in prior Orders and/or as a solitary does do however, is make it much easier to grasp the material and there might already be good discipline established for those who do the Work regularly. I had been an Adept of many years in one Order, yet still had to start at the very beginning in another Golden Dawn-based Tradition. And, this is why I don’t understand why some folks in higher grades treat Neophytes badly. One never knows just how magically experienced another is coming into an Order. A Magician can be a padawan learner in one Order and be an initiate of multiple Traditions or even in a much higher grade/degree in another Order. Being pompous serves absolutely no purpose and shows a display of immaturity. Not for students, and not for leaders. Instead, we should take a humbler approach and keep our egos in check.
Then there is challenge of being an actively spiritual person in very non-spiritual, modern society…
…Spirituality sadly has become more of a business in many cases. Unlike in ancient times, citizens are not rewarded and respected for being spiritual beings. In ancient times, priests, shamans, and oracles were often regarded as the only ones permitted to engage in theurgist dialogue with the Divine and thus provided valuable services to their communities. They were highly respected members of society and in some cases in ancient history, they were also the leaders of tribes and clans. Thus, spirituality and governance were often intrinsically melded together. Providing divination, counseling, shamanic journeys to the liminal realms and back, were considered an actual, respected profession. Now spiritual teachers working on the fringes are often seen as crazy or at the very least, overtly superstitious. Again, in the Golden Dawn, a good Magician is a person who has a vivid imagination yet is free from fantasy. We are very inquisitive and ask questions, yet at the same time, we accept that there are other planes of existence that we gain access to, while keeping a firm grip on reality.
By contrast, these days, instead of being revered, many priests, priestesses, hierophants, shamans and oracles have to work other full-time jobs in order to support themselves and their families. Some lucky ones manage to start up creative business endeavors that complement the spiritual workings and thus break the wheel. However, this can also be tricky, since it is all too easy to want to make money off the spiritual systems themselves in order to have more time to be more immersed in them and still, survive, even if they were never intended as money-making machines in the first place. This is especially a challenge in the Golden Dawn since it is not considered a religion. So, there are no tax breaks. Orders are not considered businesses either, so you can’t make a living off of it… unless one decides to turn it into one, which is abuse of the system and the current itself! Most people are not willing to do double-duty in terms of work. Most want to work, come home and relax at the end of the day, rather than get up off the couch and do anywhere from 15-60 minutes of ritual work and meditation day after day. Most people in general don’t want to commit to doing spiritual work on weekends and would rather go camping or some other type of recreation without being interrupted by having to do rites. Privacy is also a concern. If you are stressed out about having to hide the crux of your spiritual practices from those that are not initiated, it can cause conflicts at home. If you don’t at least have a spouse, partner, family members or others you live with being ok with your strange and involved spiritual Path, then you will not last long in the Golden Dawn. This Path is one you can only hide for so long from people you reside with, given it’s intense involvement. I consider myself to be exceedingly lucky that my husband and soul mate is also on the same Path. We actually met at a time where we sought out to meet each other’s’ soulmate who was also involved in the Golden Dawn Path as well as having affinity for working with and worshipping the Ancient Egyptian deities. I will not go into details here, but I will share with you that both he and I had done magick rites specifically to be brought into each other’s lives. Proof was our success!
Given some of the challenges with logistics and scheduling means an initiate may need to make some choices as to what is more important at the end of the day; binge-watching T.V. for hours, other leisure activity or taking time to do the rites and meditations. It is up to the G:. D:. student as to how they arrange their own life schedule, but if they cannot commit to a serious daily discipline then it is best they forego this Path and choose something less demanding. Many people are in the pattern of just going to a church on Sundays for an hour or a weekly meditation session and that’s the extent of their spirituality. That is fine for those folks. But for the Golden Dawn practitioner, rites and meditations are done every day while active in a curricular grade. Students can take sabbaticals from the work of course, but once a habitual rhythm is started, it is best to continue to the best of one’s abilities. When the going gets tough, the Magician gets going, rather than running away.
Those that don’t prioritize the Path and prefer to do things all their own way with no oversight, may be actually better suited to be solitary practitioners learning from published book sources. There is nothing wrong with this, however then the initiatory component, in-depth instruction as well as unpublished and/or oral transmissions will be completely missing. Anyone can buy a book online or check out a book at a library. It is how most of us find out about the Golden Dawn in the first place and sample the rites in books to see if this form of spirituality and Mystery School are thinks we want to be more involved in or not.
Bonafide groups and Orders in the occult typically interview and vet potential members up front before they are accepted for initiation into them, knowing that the Path is not for everyone as well as for the safety of both the candidate and the other members. Might as well be honest up front with folks, even if that means less members involved. The Golden Dawn has always been considered as a “secret society” since it is a Mystery School, not intended for the masses and it never will be. Maintaining secrecy is a hallmark of the Tradition despite certain individuals publishing materials that were originally intended to be kept secret in the mainstream.
Indeed, the further along we go on this Path, the less concerned we are about what the outside world thinks about us. We are on a Path of individual spiritual liberation.
There are exceptions regarding the concerns of mainstream society but usually these are seen with folks who have not done the G:. D:. processes correctly, skipping critical steps and even in some cases, entire initiatory grade experiences without proper oversight in the workings of each initiatory grade. Make no mistake, there are no shortcuts in the G:. D:.. If something is missed, it must be done before being able to move onto the next grade, or else it will catch up with the initiate in a potentially unpleasant way.
The Golden Dawn Tradition, like any other spiritual Path, has had its fair share of corrupt individuals on and off since the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Tradition started in its cohesive form in the late 1800’s. Sadly, the ones we tend to hear about or know about have been in key leadership positions. But it is because these people were in leadership positions, that we are even aware that problems can exist and thus learn from them and not make the same mistakes ourselves as stewards of this beautiful Tradition. There are some modern Orders and/or Temples that have had their initiatory Current literally polluted by the egotistical, mentally unstable and/or profit-making drives of certain unscrupulous individuals who never should have been passed a baton of carrying the torch of the Tradition. Still in other cases, the profanation of the teachings and lust for public recognition is too great for some to resist despite this is a Path that shuns what we know to be a “consumer mentality”.
This term is used to describe an attitude of “constant taking with no or very little giving”, with more concern for the amassing of personal power rather than being of service to others. I first heard of this term by a recent predecessor. I couldn’t agree more with this individual on this point. Unfortunately, the consumer mentality tends to be predominant in our modern-day society. There is a drive to succeed materially and feed the ego constantly with the advent of social media and constant diet of “you can be loved, successful and attractive IF you buy and use our products, and services” is nauseating! We don’t actually need any of these. They are merely conveniences and should merely be thought of as thus. The responses of the masses to the media are at least partly responsible for the degradation of the human Soul. It is up to us as individuals to take our personal power back, rather than let outside influences dictate our lives! Just try and stay off social media, mobile phone side amusements, and T.V. for a period of a few days to a month and see how you feel! The point will become abundantly clear. We should not crave these things to the point we feel we cannot live day to day without them! I have to unplug for intervals myself from time to time to keep the proper perspective. None of us are immune to the influence. We need to make ourselves less dependent on the conveniences if we hope to have any real strength of Spirit ! Now, this does not mean living off the grid, wearing certain types of clothing or maintaining odd day to day customs. In the Golden Dawn, we do not tell people how to live their daily lives, who they should be with, what they should do for income-generating work, what they should eat or drink on a daily basis, nor what religion to follow, etc. The Golden Dawn Tradition is not a cult. It is indeed hurtful to see once in a while some folks venturing to try and make it one.
So to encapsulate, why do people sometimes drop out of the Great Work in the Golden Dawn Tradition? This tends to mostly be due to both changes the initiate sees as unwanted happening in their lives, and/or else the amount and daily frequency of ritual Work and study gets to be too much for those who are either not ready for such commitment, or else were not that interested in Self-Transformation to begin with. I have seen those who only join to gain magickal power over external things in their lives, those expecting the Harry Potter-like magickal fireworks or a demanding attitude of “getting what they pay for” even if the donations are very nominal and don’t even cover operating expenses of a Temple, get disappointed and leave. The whole point of the Golden Dawn, is deep Ego and Soul Transformation, not trying to move objects via telekinesis! The latter is purely fantasy. The former is doable for those who dare to take a real good look at part of themselves that they don’t like nor accept initially.
Once certain upheavals happen in the life of the initiate, in regard to both psychological complexes coming to the surface from the subconscious to be dealt with, as well as tangible circumstances changing in a challenging manner, the initiate is faced to face with their innermost being. This means parts of the psyche that are not directly perceived in the mundane, day to day for the beginner in the G:. D:. system.
The challenges only happen when the system is done correctly following instructions from those Adepts who have walked the Path before and solid curriculum of practices and study. The system cannot work in a vacuum and it also does not work when just a little effort is put into the Work.
This Path demands total immersion in the Alchemical Processes which are represented all throughout both the Outer and the Inner Orders. There is a rhythm to it. Timing is important to ritual as well as the sequence in which the rituals and meditations are performed. This includes time spent doing the practices in each grade. For Alchemy does not happen without a catalyst and this is true not only for laboratory Alchemy and sexual Alchemy, but also spiritual/psychological Alchemy as well. There has to be inner drive and doing the rites correctly, for the right amount of time, in the right sequence, in order for them to Work properly. Sure, one can get a book with some of the rituals in it, but rest assured, there are still secrets of the practices that are only revealed to the full initiate.
The Golden Dawn Tradition is not something one can just set down and go about the rest of life thinking that what is being done in the Work is just some sort of side-line. This Path is not for dabblers. It is not a once in a while hobby, nor should it be treated like one. It is an active, intense, living Tradition. This Path is not for the weak-willed, the lazy, the incompetent, nor the emotionally immature. It requires tremendous fortitude and willingness to admit parts of one’s self that are unpleasant, imperfect and the willingness to transform these into serving the Higher Will. It is for the courageous and the honest. It is for the sincere, intelligent and the disciplined. In turn, those that persevere in earnest reap the precious and priceless rewards of Spirit!
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