I believe it would be of high interest if we searched back in time to seek out what the general or accepted opinion were about the Secret Chiefs in the past, not just limiting the presentation to our current popular views. I will not however be satisfied with limiting my historical and geographical perspective to the Golden Dawn and its inception in England, but will try to delve deeper into the layers of history, to 18th Century Germany. I believe the answers of how we should regard this delicate question somehow must be related to or illuminated by the very roots of these concepts.
It's not at all uncommon today to read about claims held by numerous occult organizations and fraternities that they possess a communication with "Secret Chiefs" of some sorts, or the Third Order even. Looking at the webpage of Servants of the Light (S.O.L.), as an example, one can read about this said organization as a "fully contacted Mystery School". This of course means contacted by Secret Chiefs. Knowing the history of this Order and its origins in Dion Fortune's Society of the Inner Light, one easily can construe that this refers to "astral contacts" with some sort of "guides" or "guardians". I also know from an old member of both the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and a former high ranking member of S.O.L. (with personal communication with Dolores Aschcroft-Nowicki, the current leader of S.O.L.) that the highest teachings belonging to their "Third Grade" were solely being received by so called "channeled" sources, i.e. from an astral origin.
This is not an uncommon notion at all. Like I said, most occult societies claim this kind of inner plane contacts. Dion Fortune was a prominent psychic and claims to have received her own contacts with astral masters prior to her expulsion from the Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega (the legimite continuation of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). She often used techniques common with spiritualism, i.e. putting herself into a passive state of receptivity, while guarded by her members in the place of working, and receiving channeled messages. The New Age community has been privy to this kind of practices and the New Age bookshelves are filled with channeled communications, one more fanciful than the other. Reading this kind of literature readily shows that mediums often fall into the trap of self-deception and self-delusion, common in nature to the so called "regression therapies".
These notions of astral or inner plane "contacts" actually stems from Theosophy, Blavatsky's eastern school of occultism, not Golden Dawn per se. There however seems to be some contradictions about the nature of "them", called Mahatmas ("Elder Brothers") by Blavatsky herself, of which she had contact with two bearing the names of Koot Hoomi and Morya. On one hand she claimed to have had communications with these Masters through written letters (of which some were preserved) but on the other in time the notion of "ascended masters" started to creep in. Alice Bailey claimed an inner contact which bears similar qualities to so called "automatic writing".
Many early Golden Dawn Adepts, including its Chiefs (i.e. S.L. MacGregor Mathers and William Wynn Westcott), were members of Blavatsky's Theosophical Society. Westcott and Mathers knew her personally. Dr. Robert Felkin and his wife, both leaders of the schismatic Stella Matutina, were both inspired by Theosophy and Alice Bailey. According to some scholars, for example Patrick J. Zalewski and Tony Fuller, this is evidenced in some of the written material of the later Stella Matutina Whare Ra Temple, as well as its oral teachings. It is also a fact that Felkin later, after the schism with MacGregor Mathers in 1900, claimed to have received an inner plane communication with the "Sun Masters" and a Third Order, but later also with a inner plane teacher called Ara Ben Shemesh. All this is reminiscent of the Mahatmas of Theosophy, which has nothing at all to do with how things originally were perceived in the Golden Dawn.
It should be noted right away that the Golden Dawn from its very inception in 1888 always has been very clear in its opinions about these kind of practices. This kind of passive mediumship is severely condemned as potentially dangerous for the human spirit. The Golden Dawn tradition has always scorned passive mediumship and idealized active seership as the only true alternative for a Magician. Reading the original application form of the Golden Dawn makes this position crystal clear:
The Chiefs of the Order do not care to accept as Candidates any persons accustomed to submit themselves as Mediums to the Experiments of Hypnotism, Mesmerism, or Spiritualism; or who habitually allow themselves to fall into a completely Passive condition of Will; also they disapprove of the methods made use of as a rule in such Experiments.
I will not suffer myself to be hypnotized, or mesmerized, nor will I place myself in such a passive state that any uninitiated person, power, or being may cause me to lose control of my thoughts, words or actions.
There has, though, been circulating a popular myth about the reception of the Second Order (R.R. et A.C.) material - ritual and curriculum - that S.L. MacGregor Mathers (who were the Chief of the Golden Dawn and the later Alpha et Omega) and his wife undertook to use these kind of methods, i.e. channeling. It is said that Moina Mathers sat in a passively state while her husband invoked the Secret Chiefs and held any dangerous forces at bay during these sessions. Reading the quotations above makes these myths nothing but urban legends of the occult community; I just cannot accept this as a fact. I will return to this couple later, looking at their communication with the Secret Chiefs from a completely different angle.
There is also the middle position, the one that claims both physical and astral contacts with the Third Order. One of the most known examples of this third or "middle" position is Paul Foster Case (1884-1954) and his organization Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.). Cases views about the Third Order is important as he is a well regarded and renown occult teacher which still inspire many students of the Golden Dawn (as he did me). Case follows the general traditional view of his definition of the Secret Chiefs and the Third Order, namely that:
The Third Order corresponds to the Supernal Triad upon the Tree of Life glyph, i.e. the 8=3 Grade of Magister Templi (Master of the Temple) which corresponds to Binah on the Tree of Life, the 9=2 Grade of Magus (Magician) which corresponds to Chokmah, and lastly the 10=1 Grade of Ipsissimus (He who is most himself) which corresponds to the highest Sephirah Kether.
This also directly relates to the "Second" and "First" Orders; the 1=10 Grade of Zelator (Junior) corresponding to Malkuth, the 2=9 Grade of Theoricus (Theorician) to Yesod, the 3=8 Grade of Practicus (Practician) to Hod and the 4=7 Grade of Philosophus (Philosopher) to Netzach, together constituting the First or Outer Order, while the Second and Inner Order consisting of the 5=6 Grade of Adeptus Minor (Lesser Adept) corresponding to Tiphareth, the 6=5 Grade of Adeptus Major (Major Adept) to Geburah and lastly the 7=4 Grade of Adeptus Exemptus (Liberated Adept) to Chesed.
These three Orders has always been regarded as separate and the higher directly responsible for and governing the nearest lower. Furthermore, while the First and Second Orders are liable to reformations in regular intervals, the Third Order is said to be unchangeable and untouched by the currents of modernity and history; their teachings are of the eternal.
So on one hand we have the notion of the Secret Chiefs being exalted spiritual entities of highest standing, almost angelic, and on the other "normal" people with normal bodies which however has achieved mastery over their physical vehicles in exceeding the normal span of life, i.e. somehow attained the "Elixir of Life" or "Philosopher's Stone". There are obviously alchemical connotations to these notions.
The personal story of P.F. Case and his "secret chief" of the Third Order - the Master R. - is quite a fascinating one to read. On one hand he claimed to have received "the Book of Tokens" from him through the ouija board (as well as some contents of his lessons) together with Michael Whitty (a high ranking Chief of the Alpha et Omega in U.S.A. in the early 1920's) but on the other hand he clearly states in his correspondence lessons of the B.O.T.A. that he later also met Master R. (which by some have been interpreted as Rococzy, i.e the Comte de Saint-Germain himself) in the flesh. According to The Adytum News the following took place:
One day the phone rang, and much to his surprise the same voice which had been inwardly instructing him in his researches for many years spoke to him on the phone. It was the Master R. who had come personally to New York for the purpose of preparing Paul Case to begin the next incarnation of the Qabalistic Way of Return. After three weeks of personal instruction with the Master R., Builders of the Adytum was formed.
Over time he was able to identify his source, at least this was what he believed, i.e. the Master R. We must however remember that Case were influenced by the theories of Alice Bailey (the head of the Theosophical Society) and that his wife Harriet Case were the secretary of Bailey. According to Tony DeLuce (the current preceptor of the Fraternity of the Hidden Light - a heir to the tradition of P.F. Case) Case probably were inspired by Bailey in believing his "mystery voice" to be Master R., as she were writing a book on the subject, antedating the New Age admiration of Comte de Saint-Germain and his channeled "messages". So here again we have the foreign notions from Theosophy obstructing the faculties of discrimination of the Golden Dawn Adepti. In his lessons Case often states that any student through meditation is able to receive a contact with this "inner school" on the inner planes, this body of highly advanced Adepts which he calls the "true and invisible Rosicrucian Order".
So, we can conclude that much of the origins of these non-traditional notions about the Third Order can be traced through a direct influence from the Theosophic (i.e. Alice Bailey's) notions of the Mahatmas and not necessarily ones gained through the experiences in the Golden Dawn (i.e. under the influences of MacGregor Mathers and his wife). But the power of resistance of any reasoned arguments against this prevailing current and historical phenomenon of inner plane contacts within the Golden Dawn community cannot solely be explained by simply blaming the theosophists; we must also seek an explanation for this phenomenon within the Golden Dawn itself.
I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that much of the blame is to be found in a particular technique in the Golden Dawn called "Scrying and travelling in the Spirit Vision". Although it - contrary to spiritistic techniques - is an active form of seership and clairvoyance there still exists many dangers of self-delusion imbedded in its performance. As a part of these visionary experiences the magician meets astral entities, which gives him or her information of that particular plane. The greatest dangers to the soul is the flattering tendencies of these entities and their oftentimes deceptive nature. There exists certain safety measures against this kind of ego-inflation, but there are no guarantees against delusions of grandeur in the wake of these kind of astral experiences.
Francis X. King devoted an entire chapter in his Ritual magic in England to the "astral junkies" of the Stella Matutina, whose Adepti supposedly took these techniques to the extremes. Remember that is was the Chief of Stella Matutina or R.W. Felkin - who together with his wife also were much influenced by Theosophy's Alice Bailey and Rudolf Steiner - which institutionalized the tradition of astral Third Order contacts in the Golden Dawn tradition. So, it's my belief that it is the combining of Theosophical philosophy of ascended masters with the techniques of "astral projection" which must be held responsible for creating this mess of astral Secret Chiefs. This is but one good example of the dangers of cross-pollonization between foreign traditions - between the traditions of the west and the far east.
So now, having gone through the later derivatives of the Golden Dawn current, we are ready to seek out the prevailing opinions about the Third Order and its Secret Chiefs in the historical Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. There is lots of information to be gained in the work of A.E. Waite called Ordo R.R. et A.C which deals with the testimonies of Dr. Robert Felkin (Finem Respice). Let me now quote some pertinent and abridged sections of it, correcting some typos [with my comments within brackets]:
Dec. 15th 1906. Mathers sent 5=6 grade from France, obtained partly by his wife's clairvoyance.
February 19th 1910. SR [A.E. Waite] said that DDCF [MacGregor Mathers] had long since ceased to have any connection with 3rd order so his knowledge of no value.
June 10, 1910. DDCF claims to have 3rd order material but FR [Felkin] doesn't believe this, nor that DDCF has met 3rd order people in the flesh (wheares FR claims to have).
October 14th 1910. In Germany, FR met Fraulein Anna Sprengel, c 65, supposedly niece of original and a patient of FR (treated at a distance). FR thinks Anna Sprengel may be name used by different people not related for occult reasons (one at a time). QLs [Mrs. Felkin's] presence stopped FR meeting 3rd Order people. But he did, allegedly, meet some mysterious people.
News from 3rd order is: Old retired London clergyman belongs to conclave in question. FR has his name and address. Another name and address were given him, but he is to wait until approached by this person.
FR thought 3rd Order was magical which SR believed did not make far Divine Union.
December 12, 1910. T[eosophical] Soc[iety] people [in Amsterdam] & 3rd order object to SR revising rituals, because they feel nothing Rosicrucian should be printed (nor had been on their part). Original GD cipher In Brit.Mus. 5=6 ritual sent to DDCF by Belgian doctor at Liege. Order [i.e. "original" pre 1888 G.D.] now carried on under another name, unknown to FR. Woodford's mss including address of SDA [Anna Sprengel] were Ros. not GD; orig. GD had no German connection. 3rd order works Outer Temple in Germany on GD & Sephirotic lines. Thus SDA neither did nor could licence a temple. Story of how DDCF got 5=6 ritual told independently by DDCF to SA [W.W. Westcott] and by SA to FR.
December 23, 1910. FR affirms...German 3rd Order....have severed links with DDCF. Position is: DDCF alleges links with a 3rd Order but he lied; FR has succeeded in his links, but perhaps the two 3rd orders are not the same? SDA's grade of 7=4 should have been, on 1777 ritual basis. FR says there are several German external temples; the Second order begins with a ritual corresponding to 5=6, it has six steps or degrees. In 3rd Order is nothing beyond 8=3. The 5=6 used by DDCF is not correct. FR does not know how original GD people got cipher or how it came to be in B[ritish] M[useum]. They have no 2nd or 3rd order. 5=6 sent to DDCF by Dr. Thiessen of Liege who died in 1909.FR has heard From London 3rd Order person − meeting difficult, person lives in a "distant part of London". Now FR says DDCF not in original GD but SA was − if true, SA has lied to FR and SR. If FR has found original GD society in London then Amsterdam Theosophists are telling truth. No 3rd Order in America but in Germany at Nuremberg and somewhere near the source of Danube.
July 31, 1911. Now in Constantinople [Nevill Meakin] will get 1st degree of German Ros. initiation from the 3rd order at end of August. SA didn't know identity of "English clergyman" referred to before − suggested it may be Aryabartha; thus story seems to be apocryphal. FR trying to get written statement from his 3rd Order that DDCF was never connected with them − they hedge.
Sept.15, 1911. EOL [Meakin] at Grade corresponding to Tiphereth. System is ascent of Tree by Middle Pillar− Grades are Malkuth, Yesod and Tiphereth.
Following grades are Daath & Kether or (if direct line abandoned) Geburah & Chesed. The rituals have become more Masonic and are removing those things leading to lower Magia, thus paralleling changes made in England by SR. Due to the same pressures 3rd Order aim at reducing ritual. EOL has met Steiner & trusts him but says he veils things. There was a leakage in 1777. EOL told of old Passwords etc.
Addenda: They regard English order as derived from external Temple. DDCF had mss.
Sept. 25th 1911. German brotherhood does not wish for jurisdiction over English temples. Words "Rosy Cross" come from Rosa and Tau, which is Provencal for rose, or they were Ros−Taw, i.e. Dew of the Rose.
The one Head Lodge meets when required in various places. Inner Grade people start temples in various countries − numbers are largely German but also French, English, Danish, Austrian, Italian & Russian. ....third [degree] like Tiphereth using our implements, fourth something like Geburah apparently involved coming out of a tomb. They divide Annie Bessant's 33 degrees into 9 because 33 was a blunder for 3x3=9. EOL says...they have Zelator equal to Malkuth (he thinks) and Theoricus, Practicus & Philosophus are put together in No.2 as a portal to no.3 − all very muddled. Their promised teaching is a kind of marriage of occultism & Mysticism. 3rd grade has no vault but mise−en−scene provided astrally; ritual was in a small chamber but EOL was hoodwinked and moved about often so had no idea of size.
Sept.26, 1911. Germans say SDA story (i.e. Woodford & SA) true but will send no more warrants as they have been lost. They recognise I[sis]−U[rania] which is in FRs hands.
Nothing ever went from Germany to DDCF.
Since no connection between German brotherhood and Cipher mss. SDA had no power to warrant a Temple working non−German order degrees.
Oct 9, 1911. Conditions (preparation for Entrance) must be met before anyone can enter German Brotherhood. Four of FR's put up for entrance into German Br[oderhood]. Must join the single Head Lodge − no subscriptions mentioned. Meets twice a year, lately at Genoa soon at Prague.
October 12, 1911. The German Br.[others] has reps. in various countries who bring postulants to Head Lodge.
November 10 1911. German fraternity only 10 or 11 years old. Prob. connects with ancient orgs. as do English Temples. Has no early archives. The probationary practices produce equilibrium; Tattwas used in Germany but not (he thinks) Enochian system. Colour systems used. EOL sure that German 3rd degree is our 5=6 in some form. He spoke or the tomb (and thus 6=5) but may have meant the vault...
Germans have old...temporal passwords at solstices not Equinoxes. Fraternity connected with ES [Esoteric Section] of Theos.Soc. and thus with Co−masonry, but this unofficial. Members may be in both. Theos.[Soc.] connection has led to stressing of Eastern ideas, this now discouraged.
November 13, 1911. EOL....thinks....[Tarot attributions in German Order]....differ from ours. Fraternity called Rosy and Golden Cross; Steiner is a member but EOL doesn't agree with all he says. Word of the Order is Ros−Tau; sign similar to first part of Adeptus minor ritual of 1777. Their first degree has word alluding to Fire like 1777 word of Zelator and Fire pillar is shown. 2nd degree (water) shows water pillar, thus pillars are separated − which would be wrong in our symbolism. Death symbol, in 3rd degree, − how can this fit Tiphereth? But they may not use Sephirotic system. No alchemical activity. Last reformation was 1900 so Steiner may be behind it all.
November 24, 1911. FR agreed that Steiner prob. at the back, even poss. a Chief. FR agreed that Sephirotic system seemed absent. Germans have grades equal to 8=3 and 9=2 but not 10=1 (in 1777, still recog., 9 is Magus). Germans have 3 processes, each a triad with occult interpretation of Craft [i.e. Masonic] signs, attributions to centres in the body. Thus 3x3 (=9) processes, the 33 of Scottish Rite being a confusion of this.
December 14, 1911. Germans told FR that DDCF worked up ciphers and began GD with the Hermetic. Soc. Papus being a member.
April 26, 1912. Dr. Thiessen had supported SDA's action over GD, but FR doesn't know how he got in touch with DDCF.
June 11, 1912. FR brought letter from SA with copy of cipher letter from Liege adept to SA. Cipher was GD, signature was Lux ex Tenebris. Letter said SA shouldn't fear as DDCF was cut off from communication, no date or address but SA says he has dated envelope. SR said this went against German claim that DDCF had never had dealings with them. FR said Liege Doctor acted on his own. Letter dated about time of first split in GD.
August 1st, 1912. Germans also say....DDCF went to Paris, got mss. from Arsenal for 5=6 and worked it up with Vestigia by aid of clairvoyance. DDCF saw "Secret Symbols" in Arsenal. Thiessen gave DDCF only obligation upon the + 10. Thiessen allegedly wrote to DDCF first.
August 13, 1912. FR will try to find intermediary between Thiessen and DDCF − postmark on envelope to SA is Liege Station so could have been sent while passing through.
Comments: The "original" Golden Dawn probably was a group somehow connected with Kenneth MacKenzie's old "Society of Eight" or Fratres Lucis (see below). Dr. Thiessen is the identity of Mather's Secret Chief Lux e Tenebris, which he claimed to have met at Paris in 1891. According to this information above he was the source of the 5=6, which confirms Mathers' original claims. The "Secret Chiefs" that Felkin and Meakin met were obviously Rudolf Steiner's group. The reference to Annie Bessant's 33 degrees deals with the fact that she operated irregular Co-Masonic lodges from the French Le droit Humane, which allowed women to become members, obviously working the Scottish 33 degrees system. Bessant was also the current leader of the Theosophical Society, with which Steiner gradually distanced himself eventually leading to his schism and the following creation of Anthroposophy.
The rivalry with Mathers is quite evident on Felkin's part; he wants to bee the sole representative of the Third Order, which he in his gullibility believes to be genuine, while Mather's is not - or at least severed. It is also evident that the legend of Moina Mathers receiving instructions on the inner planes has its origins here; but now she uses her clairvoyant gifts which, contrary to mediumship, is an active form of seership. I however believe this to be a blind, and I will return to this fact later, but let us conclude from the start that it is quite evident from this paper of Waite's that the belief in physical Secret Chiefs was prevailing in the original Order at the turn of the century - at least a physical contact with the Third Order was the ideal if not the norm. This document also clearly states that both Mathers and Felkin lived up to this norm in their respective physical communications with persons that they believed to be Secret Chiefs in the flesh.
It is also interesting to note that the degrees of Steiner's group follows the Middle Pillar, i.e. 1st degree corresponding to Malkuth, 2nd to Yesod, 3rd to Tiphareth, and the rest following in ascending order from Geburah and onwards. This is reminiscent of how one modern group has synthesized the G.D. with the Misraïm Rite, i.e. Sam Robinson's Hermetic Order of the Nascent Dawn. Evidently Steiner's group were working with the Misraïm or Memphis-Misraïm system; we know that Steiner worked the system of O.T.O. at one time with the group called Mystica Aeterna based in Berlin. So, at one point in the history of Stella Matutina it almost merged with and nearly became a English branch of the German Memphis-Misraïm Rite. Fortunately enough, Steiner later founded the Anthroposophical Society and altogether left the O.T.O. in 1914. At that time, with Steiner distancing himself from occult ritualistic societies, Felikin started to again solely rely upon his astral contact Ara Ben Shemesh and seems to have dropped his vain search for the Third Order in the flesh. It is also reasonable to assume that Theosphical notions were inherited to Stella Matutina through Steiner. We know that Anthroposophy was integrated into some of the English Temples, prominently the long standing Hermes Temple. Personally i don't find this thought of a merge between the O.T.O. and the G.D. at all flattering.
Francis X. King gives a good account of Felkin's dealings with Steiner in his Ritual Magic in England, as does Ellic Howe in his The Magicians of the Golden Dawn. The curious reader may find more information in these works. It is well to remember that we are dealing here with a person (i.e. Felkin) who believes myths to be historical facts, even to the point of searching out the "actual" tomb (i.e. the "original" vault) of Christian Rosenkreutz. Felkin for a time even believed in the possibility of a second coming of Fra. C.R.C. (Christian Rosenkreutz), seemingly encouraged by Steiner.
There's no point in delving into the delusions of Felkin and machinations of Steiner any further, besides the fact that he (as did Paul Foster Case) regarded communication with the Secret Chiefs possible on both the inner and physical planes. Felkin also claimed to have been initiated at Germany in 1912 - into the equivalent of 8=3 and his wife into the equivalent of 7=4 Grades - something that Steiner himself always denied. Later the Stella Matutina made it possible for everyone to enter into the Third Order giving out the nominal grades of 8=3 and 9=2 even, i.e. effectively diluting the very meaning of a "Third Order". Felkin even developed a scheme of a fourth, fifth and sixth Order, the last one corresponding directly with Christian Rosenkreutz! Oh my!
And now we come to the point in our research when we finally must turn our attention to the connections between the Secret Chiefs and the original founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, i.e. William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. I will not however delve into the myth which Westcott created when he forged the mail correspondence with Freulein Sprengle (which became "Anna" Sprengle through Felkin's supposed contact with her "niece" - see quotations above - which happened to hold the name of Anna Sprengle), or Sapiens Dominabitur Astris. May I instead recommend reading The Magicians of the Golden Dawn by Ellic Howe, which gives a detailed accound of Westcott's fraudulent behavior. The mythos that he created is however interesting as it shows the prevailing thoughts and notions about the nature of the Third Order in the Golden Dawn at that time; it was supposed to consist of a continental source of origin which operated groups of people or Temples even (i.e. Licht, Liebe, Leben No. 1) and surely enough had physical incarnated humans in their membership roll.
Soon MacGregor Mathers claimed his own contact with the Third Order through its envoy Lux ex Tenebris (Dr. Thiessen), which he received while at Paris in 1891. He was given the Adeptus Minor 5=6 Ritual, and the teachings which followed it, prior to his return back to England for the establishment of his new Second Order (R.R. et A.C.). While doing this he also immediately seized control over the entire Order. Would he'd been able to do this - i.e. usurping the throne of Westcott - had he not have substantial material to prove his claims? Not very likely. The rest is history. One year later MacGregor Mathers and his wife Moina moved to Paris to settle permanently, never to return to England. According to Moina in her preface to her husband's The Kabbalah Unveiled in July, 1926, they did this because “he was told by his Occult teachers to transfer his centre to Paris, where my husband and I lived for the rest of his life.”
This action is a clear evidence of the fact that Mathers claimed a physical contact with the Third Order, the continental source of origin of the Golden Dawn. If the nature of Mathers communication were solely an inner or astral one, like Felkin's early contact with his Third Order and his "Sun Masters", he surely wouldn't have had to move to Paris to "come closer" to his teachers; on the inner the rules of time and space are different and clearly makes it redundant. However, in the wake of some uneasiness from certain London Theorici Adepti Minori Mathers felt compelled to send a manifesto, reestablishing his unquestioned authority over England. I will cite it in full as it mainly revolves around the Secret Chiefs and the qualities found in Mathers who finally were chosen to be its representative:
The Manifesto of G.H. Frater Deo Duce Comite Ferro 7° = 4°, Adeptus Exemptus, Chief Adept and Ambassador of those Secret and Unknown Magi who are the concealed Rulers of the Wisdom of the True Rosicrucian Magic of Light:
The Theorici Adepti Minores of the Order R∴ R∴ et A∴ C∴
Notice: This Manifesto is to be placed in the hands of each Theoricus Adeptus Minor upon his or her attainment of that Grade. After he or she has carefully read the same; he or she must send a written Statement of voluntary submission in all points regarding the Orders of the G∴D∴ in the Outer and the R∴R∴ et A∴C∴ to G.H. Frater Deo Duce Comite Ferro before being permitted to receive any further instruction. Unless he or she is prepared to do this, he or she must either Resign from the Order, or elect to remain a Zelator Adeptus Minor only. And he or she hereby undertakes to refrain from stirring up any strife or schism hereon in the First and Second Orders.
It is necessary that you who have now attained the Grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor after having passed through the numerous examinations on the Secret Knowledge of the Zelator Adeptus Minor Grade of the Second Order should now understand how that wonderful system of Occult Wisdom has been obtained for you.
Prior to the establishment of the Vault of the Adepts in Britannia (the First Order of the G∴D∴ in the Outer being therein actively working) it was found absolutely and imperatively necessary that there should be some eminent Member especially chosen to act as the link between the Secret Chiefs and the more external forms of the Order. It was requisite that such Member should be me, who, while having the necessary and peculiar educational basis of critical and profound Occult Archaeological Knowledge should at the same time not only be ready and willing to devote himself in every sense to a blind and unreasoning obedience to those Secret Chiefs: - to pledge himself for the fidelity of those to whom this Wisdom was to be communicated: - to be one who would shrink neither from danger physical, astral, or spiritual, from privation or hardship, nor from terrible personal and psychic responsibility; one who, while receiving for transmission the Hidden Wisdom of the Rosy Cross, should be willing to pledge himself under the severest penalties possible, that the Order should be worked in conformity with the principles laid down by those Secret Chiefs not only for the present time but in the future also: - and who should further possess an Iron Will unable to be broken by any unlooked for opposition that might arise in the carrying out of these duties: - he must further pledge himself to obey in everything the commands of the aforesaid Secret Chiefs 'perinde ac cadaver' body and soul without question and without argument whether their commands related to: - Magical Action in the External World; or to Psychic Action in other Worlds or planes, whether Angelic, Spiritual, or Demonic; or to the Inner Administration of the Order to which so tremendous a Knowledge was to be communicated; and that he must further be prepared to abide in any country; to undertake any journey at a moment's notice, or to confront the chances of death, pestilence or elemental upheaval, if called upon in the course of fulfilling their demands to do so; that he would further undertake, whatever might occur, never to lose faith in the Chiefs of the Order, and to keep his body in such a condition of physical health and especially of vital energy, that the ordinary chances of corporal illness and exhaustion should not be permitted to become any bar to his constant efforts and exertions: - all this and yet further conditions were insisted upon as the only pledges under which this Divine Wisdom was to be permitted to be given out: - and these had to be confirmed by the most terrible Obligations.
I, MacGregor Mathers, 'S Rioghail Mo Dhream 5 ° = 6°, Deo Duce Comite Ferro 7° = 4°, was the Frater selected for this Work: whom you know as the Chief Adept of the Second Order under the title of Deo Duce Comite Ferro which I had taken upon me.
At my urgent request Soror Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum [i.e. Moina Mathers] was allowed to be associated with me in this labour, but only on condition of pledging herself in the same manner, though in a less degree.
With all this it was insisted that I, the aforesaid Frater, and in a less degree the aforesaid Soror were to be held responsible for any action undertaken thro' misapprehension of the instructions of the Chiefs, no matter in what manner those Instructions were to be conveyed.
That yet further it must not be expected that these pledges should confer upon me any right to expect abnormal material support or assistance. The conditions in question, being only those on which I was to be allowed so great an honour as to be the Recipient of the Knowledge for transmission to the Order; and also that in all this my obedience was not to be the passive one of an unreasoning Machine, but the active one of the intelligent and voluntary Ministrant of the Magic of the Eternal Gods.
These preliminary conditions having been solemnly undertaken by us; then, and only then was I able to proceed to the attainment of the Knowledge of the full 5° = 6° Ritual and of the Obligation thereof; and the establishment of the Vault of the Adepts; my quitting England being a necessary preliminary thereto.
The working of the Second Order having been thus initiated I was enabled to proceed to the acquirement of the Wisdom of the Zelator Adeptus Minor Grade for transmission to you: - a work, the enormous strain and labour of which it is impossible for me to exaggerate. For, you must not think that the obtaining of this Knowledge of the Second Order for you has been merely and simply the somewhat commonplace labour of translating a heap of unclassified MSS ready placed in my hands for that purpose. This might indeed be difficult and fatiguing, but it would be the merest child's play compared with the Herculean task that I have been called upon to execute.
Concerning the Secret Chiefs of the Order, to whom I make reference and from whom I have received the Wisdom of the Second Order which I have communicated to you, I can tell you nothing.
I do not even know their earthly names.
I know them only by certain secret mottoes.
I have but very rarely seen them in the physical body; and on such rare occasions the rendezvous was made astrally by them at the time and place which had been astrally appointed beforehand.
For my part I believe them to be human and living upon this earth; but possessing terrible superhuman powers.
When such rendezvous has been in a much frequented place, there has been nothing in their personal appearance and dress to mark them out as differing in any way from ordinary people except the appearance and sensation of transcendent health and physical vigour (whether they seemed persons in youth or age) which was their invariable accompaniment; in other words, the physical appearance which the possession of the Elixir of Life has traditionally supposed to confer!
On the other hand, when the rendezvous has been in a place free from easy access by the Outer World they have usually been in symbolic robes and insignia.
But my physical intercourse with them on these rare occasions, has shewn me how difficult it is for a mortal, even though advanced in Occultism, to support the actual presence of an Adept in the Physical Body; and such meetings have never been granted to my own personal request, but only by their own special appointment; and usually only for some reason of special importance.
I do not mean that in such rare cases of physical converse with them that the effect produced on me was that intense physical exhaustion which follows depletion by magnetism; but, on the contrary, the sensation was that of being in contact with so terrible a force that I can only compare it to the continued effect of that usually experienced momentarily by a person close to whom a flash of lightning passes during a violent storm; coupled with a difficulty in respiration similar to the half-strangling effect produced by ether; and if such was the result produced in one, as tested as I have been in practical Occult Work, I cannot conceive a much less advanced Initiate being able to support such a strain even for five minutes, without Death ensuing.
Almost the whole of the Second Order Knowledge has been obtained by me from them in various ways; by clairvoyance, by Astral projection on their part and on mine-by the table, by the ring and disc, at times by a direct Voice audible to my external ear, and that of Vestigia, at times copied from books brought before me, I know not how, and which disappeared from my vision when the transcription was finished, at times by appointment Astrally at a certain place, till then unknown to me; and appointments made in the same manner and kept in the same manner as in the case of those rare occasions when I have met them by appointment in the physical body.
The strain of such labour has been, as you can conceive, enormous; in especial the obtaining of the Z ritual, which I thought would have killed me, or Vestigia or both, the nerve prostration after each reception being terrible from the strain of testing the correctness of every passage thus communicated; the nerve prostration alluded to being at times accompanied by profuse cold perspirations; and by severe loss of blood from the nose, mouth, and occasionally the ears.
You know the extreme and sustained attention and critical judgment requisite to obtain any reliable and truthful answer through the Table or the Ring and the Disc. Add to all this Ceremonies of Evocation, almost constant strife with opposing Demonic Forces endeavouring to stop the delivery and reception of the Wisdom; and the necessity of keeping the mind exalted towards the Higher Self; while at the same time exercising the critical Archaeological Knowledge and having to make the many references necessary to detect any misapprehension of meanings of passages in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, Egyptian and what not; and you will only then have a faint idea of what my struggles have been. The only one among you who has known the fearful difficulties I have had to contend with, has been Sapere Aude [Westcott] and he has therefore well known that such work could not be done in a hurry and rapidly like mere mechanical transcription, or even like ordinary original composition.
But unless the Chiefs are willing to give me the Knowledge, I cannot obtain it for you: - neither will I give it to you unless I know that the Order is being worked conformably with their wishes and instructions.
What I discountenance and will check and punish whenever I find it in the Order is any attempt to criticise and interfere with the private life of Members of the Order; neither will I give the Wisdom of the Gods to those who endeavour to use it as a means of justifying intolerance, intermeddling, and malicious self conceit. The private Life of a Person is a matter between himself or herself, and his, or her God; and no person who has taken the obligation of 5° = 6°, and studied the same can be ignorant of its clauses and penalties.
The Temples of the Order are places for the performance of Sacred Ceremonies, and the petty criticisms and uncharitableness of social clubs and drawing rooms, should be rigidly banished from them. To invoke carelessly and inadequately the Divine White Brilliance and the Forms of the Eternal Gods while permitting your mind and lower personality to be filled with uncharitableness; towards your neighbour, self righteous pride, and trivial social considerations, is an abominable blasphemy; it is that taking the Name of God in vain which is a most pernicious sin; for by so doing you cannot touch the God, but instead and in his semblance arouse the Evil Antithesis.
This, I know, has been a sin among you during the last twelve months; and be sure that this must bring its reaction; and there is no surer road to this error than the encouragement of the feeling of the Pharisee: ‘God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are’. Such a formula, whether expressed or implied, means at once separation from that God who is universal.
Of what use are the Second Order Centres, if they are not places where the Gods and the Angelic Forces are invoked in Spirit and Truth; and where Mystic Powers have their abode, and where petty social gossip can find no place.
It is possible for you to be word perfect in all the knowledge of the Zelator Adeptus Minor Grade and to know all its Ceremonies by rote; and yet unless you can really and profoundly grasp their inner meaning, an uninitiated person who has a strong will, faith, reverence, self sacrifice, and perseverance, may be more truly a Magician than you.
Finally, the reading of this Manifesto will have made you comprehend the enormous amount of time and energy necessary to obtain the Wisdom of the Second Order. To this must be added the considerable amount of labour connected with the Order - my own work in the outer world - and with all this the imperative necessity of keeping my physical health and vital energy always up to full pitch; and at times having had the extra disadvantage of being compelled to earn my own living in the world.
I therefore expect you to aid me to the best of your ability by carrying out my wishes regarding the management of the Order and by abstaining to the utmost of your power from putting any extra hindrance in my way.
I have considered it advisable that you should have both had in your possession and carefully studied the whole knowledge of the Zelator Adeptus Minor Grade before receiving this Manifesto.
S. L. MacGregor Mathers. 'S Rioghail Mo Dhream
Deo Duce Comite Ferro 7° = 4°
87 Rue Mozart, Auteuil, Paris
October 29th, 1896
This letter clearly states that the Secret Chiefs are real persons living incarnated lives, but at the same time that they oftentimes communicate through non-physical channels, i.e. astrally. This makes Mathers taking the "middle position", reminiscent of the story told by Paul Foster Case and his experiences of the Secret Chiefs, even down to using crude devices which can be compared to the use of ouija board, i.e. the use of the "table" and "the ring and disc" - the R.R. et A.C. version of dowsing.
Mathers statement in his manifesto regarding his physical encounters with the Secret Chiefs, that "on such rare occasions when I have seen then in the physical body the rendezvous was made astrally by them", is rather ambiguous and hard to interpret. This seems to imply a astral encounter which is constricted to time and space, i.e. in relation to Mathers' body and its senses and not his imaginative faculties. I will later propose an explanation of this paradoxical line, but now I feel compelled to quote W. B. Yeats and his Autobiographies from 1926, who recalls a conversation with Mathers regarding the subject of the mysterious appearances of the Secret Chiefs:
Once, when Mathers told me that he had met his Teachers in some great crowd, and only knew that they were phantoms by a shock that was like an electric shock to his heart, I asked him how he knew he was not deceived or hallucinated. He said, “I had been visited by one of them the other night, and I followed him out, and followed him down that little lane to the right. Presently I fell over the milk-boy, and the milk-boy got in a rage because he said that not only I but the man in front had fallen over him.” He, like all that I have known who have given themselves up to images, and to the speech of images, thought that when he had proved that an image could act independently of his mind, he had proved also that neither it, nor what it had spoken, had originated there.
The conditions surrounding the death of MacGregor Mathers in 1918 also adds to the myth of Mathers, being shrouded as it is in a veil of mystery. According to Dion Fortune his death was the result of the Spanish Influenza, but there are no evidence supporting this case as his death certificate lists no cause of death. According to his wife Moina his death was supposed to be the result of his contact with the Secret Chiefs. This obviously points to some kind of unorthodox transmission of instructions - i.e. from the inner planes. But, again we must consider this to be in line with the usual dramatization the Mathers' couple were prone to in describing the nature of the communication with the Secret Chiefs; i.e. a smoke screen. Mathers must have chuckled in his grave!
I cannot of course argue against the possible fact that it may have been so that only someone of Mathers' physical and spiritual stature were able to recive a communication on both the physical and astral levels. And what is to be expected from a Secret Chief, i.e. a member of the Third Order, who has achieved his or hers Opus Magnum, i.e. the highest Magisterium of the 10° = 1° Grade of Ipsissimus? What is the nature of someone projecting his consciousness into his solar light body and receiving immortality? I will return to a explanation of the nature of the highest attainment which comes with initiation into the Third Order soon, but no doubt, the feats of this kind of men or women would be extraordinary beyond the expectations of the natural man; i.e. of someone who are "more than human".
However, this overly reliance and constant referring to astral or inner plane contacts made by MacGregor Mathers and his wife are surely a blind, designed to conceal the true identity and nature of the Secret Chiefs. We also have to consider the need of Mathers to gain the sympathy and alliance of his Adepts in a time were discordia were paramount; Mathers had a flare for the dramatics. He was no doubt a very good stage performer and knew how to create an aura of mystique - a feature typical of Chiefs of the Golden Dawn! So, it's my opinion that Mathers' letters must be read in the light of a two-fold motivation on his part: (a) the creation of a decoy, and (b) the manipulation and soliciting for sympathy and allegiance. But at the same time Mathers reveals some truths about "their" nature - they are humans, born of a mother and a father like the rest of us.
And now we must conclude with a brief account of the true origin of the concept of the Secret Chiefs - 18th Century Germany of Masonic Rosicrucianism. It is my belief that the notion of Secret Chiefs actually stems from German soil and in fact later was inherited to the Golden Dawn.
When Karl Gotthelf Hund (Baron von Hund) created the Rite of Strict Observance in 1751 he also promoted the idea of "Unseen Superiors" or Superiores Incognitii which would instruct the Master Masons in the secret teachings of the Royal Art, i.e. of Masonry. In my opinion, the Rite of Stricht Observance was steeped in a hermetic mould, as it promised to reveal alchemical secrets for its initiates; hence it was part of the German Rosicrucian current. Soon the German grand lodge Zu den drei Weltkugeln (the Three Globes) adapted von Hunds Rite, but only a couple decades later turned into a strong nerve centre for the openly professed Rosicrucian and Alchemical fraternity of Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz (Fraternitas Rosae et Aureae Crucis, R. et A.C.), which to no surprise were governed by "Unseen Superiors" or Unbekannten Oberen as well.
This concept or "myth" of the Secret Chiefs spread amongst the initiates and the German rosicrucians in general soon believed that the Geheime Oberen consisted of a secret collage of Adepts that either governed their organization or some day would appear before its members to lead it. It's easily discernable when studying these conceptions in the Stricht Observance and the Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz. This concept was one of the reasons of the downfall of the former as the Unbekannten Oberen apparently failed to manifest as promised, which led to its collapse five years after 1777 reformation of the Gold- ünd Rosenkretuz, which in turn lived on for another decade until its official closure on the very command of the Unseen Superiors, because of the tolls taken in its battle with the Bavarian Illuminati and according to Christopher MacIntosh also in the wake of the general aufkärung reaction (of which the Illuminati was a part). It is interesting to note that both the Illuminati of Weishaupt and the schismatic Rosicrucian fraternity of the Asiatic Brethren accused the Secret Chiefs of the Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz to be non less than the Order of the Jesuits!
Hence the major difference between the rival organizations of the Stricht Observance and the Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz, which for several decades contested for membership between them, were that the latter had a real secret council (equivalent of a Third Order) which governed the fraternity (signing edicts, letters, etc.), while the former Freemasonic Order searched for its in vain. Those interested in reading about this further may find lots of information in The Rose Cross and the age of reason: 18th century rosicrucianism in central Europe and its relationship to the enlightenment by Christopher MacIntosh.
It is however difficult to gain any knowledge about the truth of the matter behind the Third Order and its Secret Chiefs, just based on written documentation accessible to historians archived in private collections, institutes and libraries. So, unsatisfied as I am with this situation, I have to resort to a tentative reliance on a source which claims first hand experience with "them" and "their" secret organization, of which we today call the Third Order. All we can do here is to either accept or not accept the accounts of David John Griffin, the leader of the European based Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn®, also known as the Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega®, which claims to be governed by the Third Order. But on the other hand, without his testimony we wouldn't have any knowledge at all about "them" to consider. The beauty of his theory though is that it provides with the missing links between continental European Rosicrucianism and the British based Golden Dawn.
The story starts off with Kenneth MacKenzie, the author of the so called Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts (which lays the foundation of the entire Golden Dawn in the Outer), of whom we know that he published the Royal Masonic Cyclopedia, which provided the grade structure and mystical names of the German Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz, thus being one of the early exponents of this organization in England. He was a well renowned occultist in his home country, rumored to have be initiated into continental Rosicrucian bodies - hence for many represented a important link between Europe and England - which eventually were appropriated by Robert Wentworth Little's Soceitas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) to create their bogus "link" between the S.R.I.A. and the Gold- ünd Rosenkreutz. MacKenzie himself claimed to have been initiated by the Hungarian Count Apponyi in Austria. David Griffin recounts this event:
Count Apponyi of Hungary was a Rosicrucian, representing an extremely ancient and secretive Continental European order of Hermetic alchemists, to whom S.L. MacGregor Mathers would later refer to as the "Secret Chiefs" (Geheime Oberen in German). Apponyi transmitted to MacKenzie certain Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages together with esoteric transmissions with which to found what in 1888 became the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in Britain.
Upon his return to England, Kenneth MacKenzie founded this esoteric society that would later become the Golden Dawn under the original name of “Fratres Lucis” or “Brethren of the Cross of Light.” MacKenzie’s temple was Number one, followed by the Bristol temple of F.G. Irwin [a high ranking S.R.I.A. member and later Chief-Adept of one of their collages] as Number two. Isis-Urania therefore became Temple Number three when the Golden Dawn was "founded" in 1888. The teachings for this order were coded using Trithemius “Stenographia” as “Cypher Manuscripts” that were later obtained by Wescott from MacKenzie’s widow following the latter’s death in 1886.
It should be noted that at the time of MacKenzie's initiation, both the Gold und Rosenkreutz (Golden and Rosy Cross) order and the order of the Asiatic brethren were active in Austria and that the grade structure of the Gold und Rosenkreutz order found its way directly into the Golden Dawn. Moreover, the name that MacKenzie chose for the first phase of the Golden Dawn, Fratres Lucis, was actually a common name for the Asiatic Brethren. Further, the very name of the order, derives directly from the Frankfurt Jewish Masonic Lodge, "Loge zur aufgehenden Morgenrothe", "Chabrath Zereh Boqer Aour" in Hebrew, which may be rendered in English as Order of the Golden Dawn. Finally, it should additionally be noted that among the senior members of this lodge, were some of the most prominent figures of the Asiatic Brethren to be found.
In his Royal Masonic Cyclopedia, MacKenzie states that “to these Hermetic Brothers of Egypt appertains the Philosopher’s Stone and the elixir of life, the art of invisibility, and the power of communication with the ultramundane life.” He also describes these Adepts as if they would be “men of moderate competence, blameless lives, austere manners, and almost ascetic in their habits…”, yet in teaching MacKenzie “they cheerfully answered questions, but appeared not to court enquiries.” The words of a man knowing the Secret Chiefs in person.
The other "missing link" of the Golden Dawn in relation to the Secret Chiefs are of course S.L. MacGregor Mathers. David Griffin continues:
In 1891, Mathers visited Paris where on July 30 he was initiated by representatives the same Continental European order of Hermetic alchemists who had initiated Kenneth MacKenzie, to whom Mathers henceforth referred to as the "Secret Chiefs."
From these "Secret Chiefs," Mathers received the same Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages transmitted earlier to MacKenzie by Count Apponyi, as well as an esoteric corpus and skeletal initiation rituals with which to create the Golden Dawn's Rosicrucian "Second Order," the Rosae Rubeae et Aurae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.). Immediately upon having founded the R.R. et A.C., Mathers moved to Paris to be near his "Secret Chiefs, where in 1894 Mathers founded the Ahathoor Temple No. 7. While living in Paris, Mathers received advanced teachings about spiritual sexuality from his “Secret Chiefs,” notably certain techniques of "Hermetic Inner Alchemy" and "Alchemical Magic," which were intended for eventual inclusion in the Golden Dawn's projected Third Order.
In 1906, Mathers founded the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega (also known simply as the Alpha et Omega or A.O.) as a superstructure for the Golden Dawn's projected entire 'three order' system, with the H.O.G.D as its first and the R.R. et A.C. as its second order. As Chief of the Alpha et Omega, Mathers took the title, “Archon Basileus.”
Unfortunately, Mathers passed away in 1918 before he fully mastered the techniques of "Hermetic Inner Alchemy" and "Alchemical Magic" well enough to manifest the Alpha et Omega's planned Third Order. Mathers nonetheless did communicate some of the more advanced teachings regarding spiritual sexuality to certain select students, notably to Edward Berridge.
According to David Griffin, it was not until the later general reformation, instigated by him and Jean-Pascal Ruggiue (the current Imperator of MacGregor Mathers' Ahââthor Temple No. 7), that the original intention of MacGregor Mathers could be fulfilled, or according to Griffins claims:
Exactly one hundred eleven years after S. L. MacGregor Mathers' historic (1891) meeting with the Secret Chiefs in Paris, representatives of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega were invited once again to Paris to meet with a with a representative sent by them. Astoundingly, at this historic Paris meeting in 2002, the emissary of this secret order once again introduced himself as Frater Lux E Tenebris! ...And as the Secret Chiefs had done with Mathers before, they gave to us essential esoteric transmissions. In 1891, the Secret Chiefs gave Mathers everything necessary to formulate the Second Order of the original H.O.G.D. 111 years later, in 2002 (and once again in Paris), the Secret Chiefs gave the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega the initiation rituals and teachings that had been intended from the beginning for the Third Order of the original H.O.G.D.
As a direct consequence of the October, 2002, meeting in Paris with Frater Lux E Tenebris, for the first time in history a successor of the original H.O.G.D. now possesses the complete curriculum of the Third Order, including the sexual mysteries of Hermetic Inner Alchemy and Alchemical Theurgy once given by them to S.L. MacGregor Mathers himself. Thanks to the faith and trust placed in our order by the Secret Chiefs, the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega has finally completed the entire "three order" system that had been intended for the original H.O.G.D. from its inception, from the 0=0 grade of Neophyte all the way through the 10=1 grade of Ipssissimus.
Contrary to the speculations of Felkin, Fortune, and others, the true Third Order is not reserved exclusively for discarnate, astral masters, but comprises what has at all times been the highest teachings of both the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions. The initiatic authority of the Alpha et Omega no longer rests not merely on charters, affiliations, and trademarks (although we do have these things), but more importantly, the Alpha et Omega is a true vessel of the highest Hermetic and Rosicrucian mysteries entrusted to us by the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order.
So, according to this modern channel or link between the Golden Dawn and its Third Order, what actually is the true nature of the Third Order and its teachings? Its all about lineage, if we are to believe David Griffin:
Hermetic alchemy will always remain an impenetrably labyrinth for the unitiated. It is initiation that bestows the keys to the alchemical labyrinth, without which it is impossible to understand the true meanings of the classical alchemical texts and images.
The true nature of Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages are not merely something formalistic, like a Freemasonic charter. They are true spiritual lineages as well. Spiritual lineages are found not only in Western esoteric orders, but also in various spiritual traditions of the East as well as in the West. They carry with it a spiritual transmission or realization, for example, in the case of Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism.
Zen Buddhism, for example, maintains records of their historical teachers who, according to the traditional history of that school, have passed the Dharma from generation to generation in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha. Dharma transmission is the formal confirmation by a master of Zen or Chan Buddhism of a student's awakening. This one-to-one transmission is said to trace back over 2,500 years to Gautama Buddha when he gave dharma transmission to his disciple Mahakasyapa, who is regarded as the first patriarch of Zen in India.
The same is the case with Hermetic lineages, some of which date back to Ancient Egypt and, like the spiritual lineages of the East, carry with them sets of very specific spiritual exercises and states of spiritual realization and awareness. This spiritual transmission is the essence of Hemetic lineage, not some mere piece of paper or written chain of apostles.
The time has come to put an end to delusions, and the nonsense of "inner plane contacts" once and for all. The Secret Chiefs are not some imaginary "astral masters" residing on the "inner planes." They are real people. The truth is that in Continental Europe there exists an extremely secretive and ancient western mystery school. This most occult of all orders originated in Sumer, continued in Chaldea and Egypt, and was brought to Europe by the Greek and Roman empires many centuries ago. Since then, this foremost guardian of the Sumerian, Chaldean, and Egyptian mystery traditions has discreetly shaped the entire history of western occultism from behind the scenes, by depositing parts of the ancient mysteries in one visible, external vehicle after the other. Indeed, evidence even indicates that the original Rosicrucian movement was but one such outer manifestation. Down through the centuries, esoteric movements and orders have come and gone, but safely shrouded behind a veil of silence, "They" have remained.Ca. 1850, they initiated Kenneth MacKenzie and gave him (though Count Apponyi) the Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages as well as esoteric transmissions that eventually became the Cypher Manuscripts. Frater Lux E Tenebris, who met with S.L. MacGregor Mathers in Paris in 1891, was a representative of this most ancient order. In 1891, they initiated S.L. MacGregor Mathers (the records of this initiation still exist) and transmitted to him (through Frater LeT) materials that eventually became the initiation rituals, teachings, and practices of the RR et AC. The reason why Mathers moved permanently to Paris in 1892 was to remain in closer contact with these Secret Chiefs. In 1892, as a direct consequence of the esoteric transmissions received by S. L. MacGregor Mathers from these Chiefs, the Rosicrucian Second Order of the original H.O.G.D., the R.R. et A.C., was born as one manifestation of the most ancient mysteries.In 2002, they contacted the Alpha et omega once again and transmitted to us the original Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages of the Golden Dawn that had originally been transmitted to MacKenzie together with new Cypher Manuscripts including the initiation rituals and teachings that had since the beginning been intended for the Golden Dawn's Third Order.It is in this context useful to think of "Them" as the "Contenental European source of origin" of the Golden Dawn as they are the physical and historical source from which the Golden Dawn emanated. They are the Guardians of the highest mysteries of the Hermetic tradition and have existed as an order since the Hermetic tradition was brought to Europe by the Greek and Roman empires.
So, the real value of the Third Order, from the Golden Dawn point of view, is that there wouldn't have been any Golden Dawn-tradition in the first place (as we know it) if Kenneth MacKenzie wouldn't had received his lineage to frame the structure of the Outer Order, the Golden Dawn, and if Mathers half a century later wouldn't had received the lineage to raise the structure of the Second Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aurae Crucis. These two examples are the most well known where the Third Order lineage has had a tremendous effect on the entire occult and esoteric community. But what about their supposed knowledge of "the Stone of the Philosophers" and the riddle of physical immortality which we are expected to gain from the Great Work?
You are confusing physical immortality with the conscious immortality achieved with the "Royal Way" of Hermetic Alchemy. The former is a myth. The latter is achieved through three stages of the Opus Magnum that are reflected in the three grades of the Third Order of the Golden Dawn.The Grades of the A.O.'s Third Order are not merely titular grades. On the contrary, advancement is marked by quite specific states of spiritual growth and development which correspond to the Sephiroth and the Four Qabalistic Worlds. The physical (or Saturnian, Malkuth) body operates on the material (Ashiatic) plane. The primary task of the Magister Templi is the cultivation and development of the Lunar body (Yesod) so as to achieve the first alchemical separation and projection of the Lunar body on the Yetsiratic Plane. Likewise, the Magus cultivates the Mercurial body (Hod) until he or she achieves the second alchemical separation and projection of the Mercurial body on the Briatic plane. Finally, the Ipssissimus cultivates the Solar body [Tiphareth] until he or she achieves the third alchemical separation and the projection of the Solar body on the Aziluthic plane at the moment of death.This final alchemical separation and grade of the Golden Dawn's Third Order results in the attainment of conscious immortality on the Solar (Aziluthic) plane together with the liberation from any further incarnation. The attainment of these three alchemical separations represents the true goal of all of the grades all three orders of Golden Dawn. The true Opus Magnum consists of the complete transmutation of lead (Saturn, the physical body) into gold (Solar body, pure solar energy) that has at all times been the true initiatic goal of all legitimate Hermetic and Rosicrucian orders.
This projection of consciousness into a body of light at the point of death reminds me of something I heard once about certain practices performed by monks in Tibetan Buddist monasteries. Also the progression from Lunar through Mercurial to Solar bodies actually fits nicely considering the correspondences of names and Sephiroth of the three Magisteria: Magister Templi (8=3) and the work with the Lunar Body corresponds with Binah through its watery, receptive and maternal nature - which is reminiscent of the Moon; Magus (9=2) and the work with the Mercurial Body corresponds with the title Magus (i.e. magician) - Mercury as related to the Magician; Ipsissimus (10=1) and the work with the Solar Body corresponds with Kether - the radiant sphere of pure L.V.X.
This description of Griffin's may resolve the somewhat ambiguous statement made by Mathers (see above) about astral rendezvous in the physical. Perhaps there are different levels of contacts achieved according to the spiritual attainment of the particular Secret Chief in question? Surely, someone dying and projecting his consciousness into a solar body of light would make a somewhat strange appearance, wouldn't he? All this sounds wonderful, and be there as it may, but what about the Golden Dawn tradition itself? If they really are the source of origin for the Golden Dawn, which already has been manifested since over a decade ago, what more can they teach us regarding the Golden Dawn, as compared to other contemporary teachers and supposed lineages, for example from the still living Stella Matutina tradition? Of what use are they today for the Golden Dawn proper?
They teach a great deal that is relevant to all initiates of the Golden Dawn. In regard to the Outer Order, they teach the secret, "Inner alchemical" meanings of all of the symbols and diagrams of the initiation rituals of the First Order (HOGD). Regarding the RR etAC, they teach not only the secret, "Inner alchemical" meanings of all of the symbols and diagrams of the initiation rituals, but also the advanced techniques of Inner Alchemy to which the magic of the RR et AC clearly refers by analogy.[Regarding the Stella Matutina] you have to bear in mind that Felkin's Third Order, its initiation rituals, and its teachings were all concocted by Felkin after his break with Mathers. They do not come from the same source as do the First Order material of the Chipher Manuscripts (MacKenzie) or the Second Order transmission given to Mathers.Thus the Third Order of the Stella Matutina is really but an empty shell, in the sense that it is not at all the culmination of the Golden Dawn's system. The Third Order of the Alpha et Omega since 2002 is something very different. It is not some "New Age" modern invention like Felkin's Third Order based on Felkin's "astral master" delusions.On the contrary, the initiation rituals of the A.O.'s Third Order represent the culmination of the progression of initiations of the First and Second order, and its curriculum includes the advanced techniques to exalt one's spiritual nature so effectively that it is possible to complete the Opus Magnum, cultivate one's Solar body of light, and achieve conscious immortality in a single lifetime. The true grades of the Golden Dawn's Third Order are spiritual in nature, and reflect very specific states of spiritual attainment, which I explain thoroughly above.
Here ends the words of David Griffin. To round up this rather lengthy essay I would like to bring in some of my own thoughts about the Secret Chiefs and its strong die hard mythos. I believe that the real reason for this discrepancy between the current and historical explanations of the Secret Chiefs is caused from the fact that we are privy to our own idealizations and projections; they oftentimes constitute our own wishful thinking. This is not the same as saying that "they" does not exist. All I am saying is that the spontaneous myth building faculties of the human psyche oftentimes muddles up the facts from the fiction.
We all project our own idealized notions about the Secret Chiefs, in the same manner as we project our own Divine Genius on God. As I personally haven't encountered any Third Order myself (hence my reliance on secondary sources for this essay) I also am privy to projection; in this instance I project my idealizations on the Geheime Oberen to be masters in the flesh with more than average powers (some would call it superhuman). They have become more than human, but this doesn't mean that they necessarily must be ascended masters on the inner planes.
However, like many other practitioners of the Golden Dawn tradition, I also believe - partly confirmed by my own experiences - that "the current" of a tradition, and its egregore, have a Yetziratic (or perhaps even a Briatic) aspect which can tap into the ocean of archetypes and eternal wisdom, i.e. "the angelic realm". Perhaps even collectives - egregores - have a "holy guardian angel" like individuals do? I cannot se any reason that they wouldn't.
So, I believe it's important to separate these things apart, i.e. the "guardians" of the egregore current from the Secret Chiefs. As the latter works and acts on the Assiatic plane the former works in the Yetziratic and even taps into the Briatic plane. So it's my belief that even the Third Order has its own "guardians", i.e. spiritual principles or forces, as they - like all human collectives - creates egregores. These "guardians" are however not "real" in a outer or Assiatic sense, as much as "angels" or "gods" are not "real" in the outer material world. They however are "real" on their own planes from where the mythical aspect of the human psyche has its workings. It's similar to how polytheistic religions often has regarded their own people being protected by their own local gods, as compared to other nations which had their foreign gods on equal standing.
But on the other hand the Secret Chiefs however are not "unreal" at all or constitutes a "myth" in any sense of the word; they are very real, alive and working on the level of Assiah (even though they manipulate higher realms like all magicians and alchemists do, but more proficiently than most of us). They are not more fictitious than you and me. They however readily creates myths and legends surrounding them because of their highly secretive nature. So they easily becomes like a screen for our projections. And hence the real dangers of self-delusion arises; the mixing of planes.
Taking a Jungian perspective, perhaps much of the misunderstanding of the true nature of the Secret Chiefs even can be explained as a projection of our own Divine Genius (Self), or Holy Guardian Angel? I believe we have one such historical example in Aleister Crowley and his "contact" Aiwass, who "gave" The Master Therion his Book of the Law and convinced him to be a prophet of a new theology called "Thelema" for the "aeon of Horus", which would supersede the old eaon of Osiris, i.e. Christianity.
I firmly believe that Crowley mixed up his own Guardian Angel with his personal notions of what a Secret Chief would be like. Crowley himself admitted that Aiwass was his personal Guardian Angel - but in other instances he talks about his experience in terms of Aiwass being a Secret Chief. It is quite ironic as Crowley himself cautions his readers against this mixing up of personal experiences with objective reality in his Magick in theory and practice; i.e. professing one's personal truth to be everyone's religion.
This example alone should caution us against this phenomenon; I believe it is important that we must separate our own guardian angels from our concept of the Secret Chiefs, and view them severally. This is the hardest of tests and the greatest of our temptations - especially after we have entered the Adeptus Minor Grade.