In the ongoing discussion on Love and Compassion in the Great Work my good Frater A.I.T. has been kind enough to point out for us that in the Golden Dawn tradition we are taught to balance Mercy with Severity. Therefore, according to him, magic must likewise express Severity as well as Compassion, and not only the latter. According to him Compassion cannot be regarded as of more paramount importance than Severity.
I do acknowledge that Frater A.I.T. has made some important and interesting observations about what has been said in our rites, most prominently in the Neophyte Grade which states that the student should:
...study well that Great Arcanum, the proper equilibrium of mercy and severity, for either unbalanced is not good; unbalanced severity is cruelty and oppression; unbalanced mercy is but weakness and would permit evil to exist unchecked, thus making itself as it were the accomplice of that evil.Now let us try to study this Great Arcanum. In the particular development of Lurianic Qabalah called “Sabbatian” the great Qabalist and prophet of Sabbathai Zevi, Nathan of Gaza, proposed the idea of a “ambivalence” found in Godhead. He said that the expression of God was dual already at the level of Ain Soph Aur (Limitless Light), which divided into a “thoughtful” and “thoughtless” Light. The former wanted and had an urge for creation; the latter resisted it and tried to uphold the original and blissful unified state prior to creation.
But when creation did occur both the Thoughtful and Thoughtless Lights were involved in it, the latter actively combating it. This dual potency created the binary system of the Tree of Life that is known to us as the Pillars of Severity and Mercy, i.e. the Black and White Pillars as represented in the Neophyte Hall, and the three sets of opposite or opposing Sephiroth (Binah & Chokmah, Geburah & Chesed, and Hod & Netzach).
Because of these two competing forces imbalance occurred while the creation was under way and out of the forces of Severity the Tree was shattered and hence the Shells or Qlippoth were created. This catastrophe is referred to as “the breaking of the vessels”. These Shells or Husks were mixed with the seven lower Sephiroth and created what in Sabbatian Qabalah is referred to as the “Abyss”. Hence only the Supernals were untainted from the Fall while the Seven lowermost became the “Pit of Serpents”.
All this is amply showed forth in the Practicus (3°=8°) and Philosophus (4°=7°) Diagrams on the Garden of Eden. As can be seen, Sabbatian Qabalah was infused with the tradition of the Golden Dawn in an early preparatory phase, already in the late 18th Century and the fraternity called Asiatic Brethren, which later created a “Golden Dawn” Lodge in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1807, referred to as the Nascent Dawn.
So yes, there is imbedded in the Qabalistic philosophy of the Golden Dawn, which continues the antinomian way of the “heretical” Sabbateists, the concept of the evil and good faces of God. But all of this has, in my opinion, been somewhat mitigated by the early Christian Qabalistic teachings stemming from such important personages as Pico della Mirandola, Athanasius Kircher, and Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, which also found its way into the Golden Dawn. Hence we in the Golden Dawn also lay great emphasis upon the union of opposites through the healing powers of the Great Name of the Pentagrammaton or Yeheshuah (YHShVH).
This means that we shouldn’t overemphasise the division between the Pillars but instead work for the reconciliation between them. And reconciliation or union of opposites per definition involves the Great Universal Principle of Love. That’s why our tradition teaches us that the only of the Planetary glyphs which fits upon the entire Tree of Life and involves all Sephiroth is the symbol of Venus, i.e. that of Love. This according to the Philosophus Ceremony which states:
...the symbol of Venus on the Tree of Life... embraces all the Sephiroth, and is therefore the fitting symbol of the Isis of Nature. Hence also its circle is always represented larger than that of Mercury.As a Philosopus the student is later required to contemplate or meditate upon the symbol of the Planet Venus until:
...he realises the Universal Love which would express itself in perfect service to all man-kind and which embraces Nature both visible and invisible.This predominance of Love on the Tree of Life is also the reason behind why we are told in the Neophyte Ceremony that there are:
Two contending Forces and one which unites them eternally. Two basal angles of the triangle and one which forms the apex. Such is the origin of Creation, it is the Triad of Life.That’s why we are taught to invoke the Middle Pillar before we can invoke the entire Tree. This is the Pillar called “Mildness” which is composed of the Sephiroth of Kether, Tiphareth and Yesod. These Middle Pillar Sephiroth represents the synthesis of the foregoing opposed Sephiroth upon the Black and White Pillars.
In this instance I believe that Psychoanalysis may shed some valuable light on this mystery. Sigmund Freud, undeniably being either unconsciously or consciously influenced by the mystical philosophy of his Jewish ancestry, later in life postulated that human life and behaviours basically were conditioned according to the two great and contending forces or “drives” to which he referred as Eros and Thanathos, or the “life instinct” and the “death drive” respectively.
According to the Freudians both of these forces had to be reckoned with and therapy were henceforth given the task of reconciling these two. Thus the real danger, according to psychoanalysis, lies in the division or splitting between the Eros and Thanathos, which may lead to destructive tendencies and ultimately to death. The goal is instead of the fusion of these two drives that are likened to a intertwining of sorts.
I here immediately see the image of the Caduceus of Hermes, the symbol of healing. The two serpents (of which one is black and the other white in the Golden Dawn tradition) are reconciled round the central staff (the Middle Pillar). Hence Freud speaks of use of the death drive in the service of the life instinct.
Instead of expressing destructive aggression, life may use the death drive to give the necessary incentive for individuation and of personal integrity, and self-preservation. This sometimes must involve defence against destructive elements from both outside and inside of the subject. Hence Freud tells us that the defence mechanisms of the self use force coming from the death drive.
This may be compared to the practise and formulae of evocation of the averse or demonic forces. The Magician uses the severity of God to subdue the Qlippoth so that the integration of these hieretho destructive forces may be integrated and used for the greater good, i.e. in the service of the life instinct. So basically the death drive is used when the repressed parts of the death drive is to be reconciled and integrated.
Hence the Theurgical system of the Golden Dawn and of psychoanalysis have the same ultimate goal, that of making conscious that what is unconscious and to reintegrate that which has been cast down from the self. This in my opinion is the principle behind the use and adaptation of the original Neophyte Grade emphasis on the Great Arcanum of Equilibrium between Mercy and Severity. If overemphasis on any of these two principles represented by the Two Pillars occurs con-fusion instead of fusion follows, and hence the death drive or evil gains free reins to create havoc or psychopathology. Only through fusion may the evil death drive become checked and equilibrium restored.
This process is also the equivalent of what in the Lurianic and Sabbatian traditions are referred to as the Tikkun ha-Olam, the “restoration” of the Adam or Tree of Life. Hence, according to the Lurian and Sabbatian Qabalah (and also of the Theurgical system of the Golden Dawn), the Magician has been given the task of reuniting God with himself, i.e. to restore the fallen world to its original state before the breaking of the vessels.
In my opinion this restoration process not only involves the reintegration of the Qlippoth or “freeing of the divine sparks” to create a harmonious and balanced Tree of Life, but also the reconciliation or fusion of the “two contending forces”, i.e. the Black and White Pillars, Severity and Mercy, or the Thoughtful and Thoughtless Lights.
This task has been given to humanity, to us. This is our great responsibility and also, according to the Qabalah, the real purpose of our existence as humans. This is our great Cross to carry, the path of Compassion towards God or the All. In this we must sacrifice our self or crucify ourselves upon the Cross, i.e. the Tree of Life, and become the Anointed King which will govern our world with the Rod of Iron. We must make ourselves into the New Adam, into the Christos.
Therefore we must transform the Tree of Life into the glyph of Venus., i.e. into a harmonious whole. The primary force which we must wield in this process is the L.V.X. force, which is also the Life Force (life instinct), which is the Universal Principle of Love. Hence the principle of Love and Compassion must prevail over and mitigate that of Severity. Eros must conquer Thanathos and make it to a servant of life. Thus as magicians we must become Servants of the Light. That is why we are taugh the old Rosicrucian axiom of “Licht, Leben und Liebe” (Light, Life and Love), these three principles being synonyms for the All.