The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was brought into full manifestation in 1888 and thus is a child of the Victorian era in the United Kingdom. This, of course, was during the period of intense Freemasonic activity. Its founders of the Golden Dawn, MacGregor Mathers, Wescott, and Woodman were all Freemasons, as was the progenitor of the Golden Dawn, Kenneth MacKenzie.
The contention that there is no theurgical element in Freemasonry is correct in regard to Blue Lodge Freemasonry, which is thoroughly humanistic in its approach. It is not completely correct, however, in regard to fringe masonic rites, the which the above named founding fathers of the Golden Dawn belonged to not a few. For example, there were clear theurgical elements in the Egyptian Rites of Freemasonry at the time as there were in the Swedish Rite.
Additionally, the Golden and Rosy Cross Order, considered by scholars not only as a Rosicrucian Order, but also as a Rite of High Grade Freemasonry, was thoroughly alchemical in its approach and activity. It should be noted that the Golden Dawn borrowed its grade structure and more than a few other elements from the Golden and Rosy Cross.
To anyone who has been through the three degrees of Blue Lodge Freemasonry, it is obvious that the Craft had a profound influence on the structure of the rituals of the First or Outer Order of the Golden Dawn. This similarity is not limited to the actual structure of the rituals, but also includes the didactic method.
Both the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the outer and Blue Lodge Freemasonry may be classified as "Symbolical" orders, as both teach spiritually primarily through symbolism encountered by the aspirant during the rituals of initiation themselves. This essential aspect of Golden Dawn initiation can on no way be reproduced in the so-called "Astral Initiation".
Let us consider the true purpose of Golden Dawn initiation, which is ENERGETIC EVOLUTION, which is also the true aim of all of the spiritual practices of the Hermetic tradition, including the rites and practices of all three orders of the original Golden Dawn. The three orders of the original Golden Dawn were designed to accomplish energetic evolution in a gradual and gentle way; appropriate to the psychic preparedness of candidates in 1888.
It is not until the Third Order projected for the original GD that that Solar mysteries and true practices of Hermetic Inner Alchemy and Alchemical Theurgy are finally revealed. These practices have always been reserved for the highest grades of the order because they are so powerful they would be extremely destructive to the energetic bodies of initiates not properly prepared.
The same is true for the Second Order with the addition to the analogies contained in its magical system. What is, for example, the true meaning of the Vault of the Adepti? What is the true meaning of entering the Vault for the first time and encountering the Chief Adept rising from the Pastos? These things are likewise explained in the ritual, but only in a way appropriate to the understanding of a Minor Adept. And these things likewise refer by analogy directly to spiritual disciplines practiced only at the Third Order level.
The magical system of the Second Order, the R.R. et A.C. is specifically designed to strengthen and differentiate the energetic bodies of initiates to prepare them for the Solar Mysteries of the Third Order. The First or Outer Order was created as a symbolical order, which like Freemasonry produces extremely gentle energetic evolution by impressing symbols on the psyche of the candidate while PHYSICALLY present in a temple.
Robert Zink argues that Astral Initiation works because it affects the astral body of a candidate at a distance, according the maxim from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. This argument fails on two grounds. Firstly, this argument is based on a superficial and incomplete understanding of the Emerald Tablet, which I will deal with in an upcoming paper wherein for the first time a direct translation from the original Arabic into English has been made.
And secondly, this "astral" argument completely overlooks that the nature of the Golden Dawn's outer order is symbolical. It is impossible to effect energetic evolution by impressing symbols on the psyche of initiates during the ritual when they are not physically present in the temple but rather meditating on the other end of the world.
Finally, there is an actual transmission of energies from the physical body of the initiating Hierophant to the physical body of the initiate. To fully transmit these energies and fully awaken the LVX current in the energetic body of the candidate is extremely difficult to fully accomplish even under the best of circumstances - with the candidate physically present in the temple. To argue that this can be accomplished equally as effectively at a distance merely reveals an incomplete and superficial understanding of the true, physical nature of the LUX current.
The initiatic rites of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer diverge from Blue Lodge Freemasonry in three essential ways. Firstly, the Golden Dawn in the Outer has from its inception required the study of certain esoteric teachings outside of the initiatic rituals themselves. Blue Lodge Freemasonry does not.
Secondly, there is an "Astral" or "Yetsiratic" element of the Rite. This is enshrined in the building up of certain Egyptian God Forms in the Hall of the Neophytes using techniques originally known only to Second Order members, but that have "in part" been meanwhile published. This does not mean, however, that a candidate does not need to be physically present in a temple, and this is one important way that, so-called "Astral Initiaton" breaks down.
Finally, and most essentially, the Golden Dawn's 0=0 Neophyte initiation is based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead, wherein the heart of the aspirant is weighed against the weight of a feather and judged. During this initiatic rite, using techniques that have not been published, the constituent parts of the candidate's physical body, psyche, and soul are spiritually separated during the ritual and manifest located at certain visible and invisible stations of the Golden Dawn Temple. If all goes well and the initiation is successful, these parts are later reconstituted in a more balanced and higher spiritual form within the candidate.
This process is fraught with danger even under the best of circumstances. At the most delicate point of the Golden Dawn's Neophyte Initiation, for example, when the candidate is most vulnerable, extremely destructive forces arise from the foot of the altar. These destructive forces in the Egyptian Book of the Dead are called Ammit, the devourer, and the candidate is in very real danger danger of being spiritually devoured! In the Golden Dawn, this conglomerate of destructive forces is called the Evil Triad, Ommoo-Szathan-Aphophis, the slayer of Osiris, the tempter, accuser and punisher of the brethren, that in Egypt is represented with the head of a Water-Dragon, the body of a Lion or Leopard, and the hind-parts of a Water-horse.
The Hierophant, at this crucial point in the ritual, intervenes on behalf of the candidate, subdues the destructive Astral forces and recoagulates the constituent parts of the candidate. When True Golden Dawn Initiation is successful, it reorganizes the constituent parts of the initiate into a more spiritually evolved and balanced form, liberated from the domination of the lower Astral forces, and gives birth to greater spiritual awareness for the initiate. Thus we see that both the physical presence and the skill of the Hierophant are essential to the success and safety of True Initiation.
Moreover, the Astral plane is not without its dangers. Golden Dawn and occult literature are filled with warnings of the dangers of the Astral plane for the unaware and for those who are not properly prepared. These dangers include not only self-deception, but also exposure to destructive Astral forces and possession by low Astral entities. Thus Astral Initiation is not only ineffective, but downright dangerous. The same may be said of Self Initiation, wherein the same danger of exposure to destructive Astral forces and of possession by low Astral entities exists, yet the dangers of self-deception and ego-inflation are even more pronounced.
Let there be no doubt about it. There are no short cuts and even True Golden Dawn Initiation should not be undertaken lightly, as True Golden Dawn Initiation involves the ritual separation and reintegration of a candidate's physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects to give birth to a higher and more balanced spiritual form and awareness. Granted, there is always an Astral element in any genuine Golden Dawn initiation in the limited sense that the energetic or Astral body of the candidate is always ultimately impacted by the initiation. Initiation works on many levels and affects not merely the physical body of the candidate but also the Astral body. This does not mean, however, that the physical presence of the candidate with an initiating Hierophant is not necessary.
On the contrary, there is an actual transmission of energies from the initiating Hierophant awakening magical forces in the Astral body of the candidate. Contrary to the spin of "Astral Initiation" groups, this can only safely occur in the physical presence of the initiating Hierophant, and certainly not with a candidate sitting on the other end of the world! In fact, it is this aspect of Golden Dawn initiation, which derives directly from the Hermetic tradition rather than from the Neo-Platonic tradition, of fully "igniting" the LVX current in the energetic body of the candidate that is the most difficult to achieve, even for the most experienced of Hierophants! And to argue that this can be done with equal effectiveness with a candidate sitting on the other end of the world, merely demonstrates a lack of complete understanding of the Hermetic tradition in general, and of true nature of the subtle bodies and of the LVX current in particular.
Finally, on the subject of lineage, I must raise one important point. Unlike Freemasonry, the Golden Dawn is an embodiment of both the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions and as such is a "Spiritual" tradition. Lineage in the great spiritual traditions of both the East and West, additionally involves the transmission of certain sets not only of spiritual exercises, but also of actual states of consciousness attained by the great Adepts of the past. In this way, the initiate does not have to start over at square one, but in terms of actual spiritual attainment, is able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before him or her.
The Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, for example, today is a manifestation of a Hermetic spiritual lineage that can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt and beyond! The importance of this is not merely some sort of legitimacy, but involves the actual transmission of states of "spiritual attainment," that have been passed down from Hermetic Master to Hermetic Disciple not for Centuries, but for Millennia!
This phenomon of the transmission of techniques and states of spiritual attainment is not unique to the Hermetic tradition, but is known in all great spiritual traditions of the world, as in the Kaula Tantra sects of medieval India and in the Dharma transmissions of Tibetan Buddhism. Initiation in all of the great spiritual lineages of the Earth carries with it the transmission of very specific spiritual practices and states of spiritual attainment.
In the case of the Golden Dawn, these are the lineages of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions. The reason why the higher practices are kept secret and given out only grade by grade is so that the initiate may develop his or her subtle, energetic body in a safe and gentle way. The practices of Hermetic Inner Alchemy and Alchemical Theurgy enshrined in the Golden Dawn's Third Order are extremely powerful, but also extremely dangerous if practiced by those who are not properly prepared by many years of practicing Second Order magic.
Sub Umbra Alarum Tuarum, Yeheshua
G.H. Frater Lux Ex Septentrionis
Imperator Ordinis, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Chief Adept, R.R. et A.C.
Archon Basileus, Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega
"Ex Deo Nascimur.
In Yeheshua Morimur.
Per Sanctum Spiritum Reviviscimus"