Readers of this blog should be aware by now of my position regarding the projected future of the Golden Dawn, which in my opinion should have an alchemical theme to balance the prevalent magical contents of its first and second Orders. To be able to do this I propose the use of already existent and traditional formulae of alchemy outside of the standard G∴D∴ box. I refer any new reader to my essay Alchemy and the Golden Dawn for more information.
Now, an issue has been raised lately against the use of “foreign” traditions into the Golden Dawn. Instead of this these who oppose a blending of older Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions with that of the Golden Dawn assume that the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn or the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.), and its Grades of Adepti, is supposed to primarily be an in depth analysis and extrapolation of the Outer Order, its Rituals and diagrams, etc., as contained there.
Reading some adherents who oppose this inclusion of other Hermetic and Rosicrucian existing alchemical formulae I interpret them as laying to much emphasis upon a intellectual analysis of these subjects to compensate for the lack of magical formulae beyond the sub-grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor, as presented in the original work of S.L. MacGregor Mathers and W.W. Westcott. Their form of “alchemy” amounts to nothing more than speculations (although interesting in their own right) regarding the Tarot Keys and its relation to alchemical processes and stages, etc.
However I want to make it clear that I do share the opinion that the Outer Order rituals have a great potential to be used in personal work, in the same venture as the Ritual ‘Z-2’ as drawn up by Mathers. Thus I have no problem at all with the notion that the Adeptus Minor should study the Outer Order in detail, and use these formulae of the Outer Order Grades for his or her personal development in Theurgy, in the same venue as with the Z document and the 0°=0°. On the contrary it is my opinion that the Outer Order Rituals should be analyzed in the sub-grades of the R.R. et A.C.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a longer time will also recognize that I have suggested the alignment of the sub-grades of the Adeptus Minor 5°=6° to the study of the Outer Order Grades, i.e. to study the Neophyte Ritual and its practical application as a Neophyte Adeptus Minor (N.A.M.), the Zelator Ritual and its application as a Zelator Adeptus Minor (Z.A.M.), likewise the Theoricus Ritual as a Theoricus Adeptus Minor (Th.A.M.), etc. Would I be hostile to this kind of study if I had suggested this arrangement? No, of course not.
But that being said, I ask if this is all that is to the R.R. et A.C.? Is it even the most important aspect of the work of the Adepti? Is it primarily supposed to be an intellectual and speculative mind game (i.e. anal-ysis of Outer Order Rituals and attached diagrams), or is it supposed to be an operative Order providing transformative formulae of Theurgy and Alchemy?
Thus what I’m against is the emphasis laid upon Outer Order analysis suggested by some modern developers. There is lot of important work to be done by the Adept which doesn’t involve the Outer Order at all, but introduces different and even more potent formulae of Magic and Alchemy. The Golden Dawn should be placed in a wider context, especially on the Inner Order level, which interlinks with other sub-traditions of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian current.
Thus I represent a current that sees a great benefit in the use of traditional techniques, which has been widely in use by different Orders older than that of the Golden Dawn. Why should it be regarded as “foreign”, just because it originally didn’t use the label “Golden Dawn”? Why create something new and potentially speculative where there is such a wealth of Hermetic tradition already existing in Europe, which has been used since many centuries? The problem doesn’t lie in that there is a lack of a Rosicrucian tradition (that needs to be invented and developed), but on the contrary, that there is so much already existing which has a very high potency, but that lies there unused and collecting dust.
18th Century Europe was ripe with esoteric formulae taught through lodges or circles, based upon Hermeticism, the Holy Qabalah, Rosicrucianism and Martinism. Lots of it went dormant in the early 19th Century but in its latter part some was revived and further developed, or resurfaced, such as through the Golden Dawn and the R.R. et A.C., and the traditions revolving around and evolving from Papus in France. Some was preserved through the rites of Misraim and the Rose-Croix d'Orient but in most cases vehicles became diluted or corrupted.
Although one must remember that the emphasis in the 18th Century were on Alchemy, both External and Internal. Today lots of documents are collecting dust in private collections, and in public, semi-public and freemasonic libraries. I my opinion modern research should focus upon that rich but “lost” tradition.
Thus I ask you: Why re-invent the wheel when it already has been invented and just waits to be re-discovered?
Some Organizations has the benefit of being guided by guardians who sits on the true Keys to this tradition. Most however don’t. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do, and only try to compensate with new developments without any guidance but the foundation already laid out in the old and published material.
Now, I’m not at all against new developments, but I’m seriously concerned if that is what it all amounts to. Speculations regarding the possible relation between the 22 Tarot Trumps and the stages of alchemy, or the 22 plates of the Splendor Solis, is nice, at least to stimulate the intellect. But it won’t get you very far in applying actual alchemical formulae. But an even greater danger in all of this lies in the inevitable influences received from modern conceptions of science or worse, the “New Age” market.
Well, I myself like to be influenced by psychoanalysis in my interpretation of the Qabalistic and Theurgical tradition. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that I have lost the traditional perspective. It’s more that I see patterns of similarities and like to broaden the perspective. At least that is my ambition, and I hope that I don’t get lost to easily in the seductive constructs of the modern mind. Thus, new developments should complement, not compensate the lack of, tradition.
But I do understand where this suggestion of analysis of Outer Order Ritual comes from. It is true that S.L. MacGregor Mathers extrapolated the 1°=10° Grade Ceremony in the Theoricus Adeptus Minor sub-grade. Thus he introduced the Th.A.M. to study of the Fylfot Cross, the Table of Shewbread and the Seven Branched Candlestick, as well as the diagram of the Flaming Sword of the Kerubim.
So it is logical to continue with this in the development of the higher sub-grades. However, even in Mathers’ system that was not the only task expected of the Th.A.M., nor was it the most important as it seems. This may be easily inferred from a study of the ‘List of Studies appointed for the Grade of Practicus Adeptus Minor’ (as published by Ellic Howe in The Magicians of the Golden Dawn).
Out of a list of 15 points only 4 concerns the actual 1°=10° ritual. The other points concern completely different formulae of Theurgy which takes off from the Zelator Adeptus Minor study, such as the Ring and Disc, development of clairaudience, further Telesmatic work, an elaborate system of prayer with the use of Egyptian God-Forms, Geomancy, Enochian Chess, etc.
So for me it is obvious that there should be room left for completely different formulae of Magic and Alchemy not having anything to do with the Outer Order Rituals, and it is here (as it was in the original Z.A.M. and Th.A.M. curriculum) where the emphasis should be. And here it becomes quite problematic, as it definitely needs much more creative effort and knowledge of the ancient traditions on behalf of the Chiefs, to create challenging instructions. I suspect this is why there is such emphasis laid on the intellectual analysis of the Outer Order in some schools in the first place.
What I do have a problem with, in this instance, is the notion that the use of alchemical formulae and processes, originally used in other and older venues than that of the G∴D∴ has no place there. What these people miss is the fact that the highest formulae of alchemy is and has always been independent of any outer freemasonic style “Rites” or particular traditions such as the Golden Dawn.
All of the true outer vehicles of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian Tradition are but preparatory schools to prepare the initiate to this true Ageless Wisdom contained in what we call the “Third Order” in our Tradition, but other modern authors has referred to as “The Great White Brotherhood”, but we in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn/Alpha et Omega nowadays simply refer to as the “Alchemical Masters”.
Thus the ancient form of Hermetic Alchemy is the core-source behind all other more modern and legitimate Rites in the Rosicrucian tradition, such as Egyptian Freemasonry (or the “Misraim Rite”). Its Arcana Arcanorum or “Secret of Secrets” of Internal Alchemy was never extrapolated from the actual Rite of Egyptian Freemasonry. It was the other way around; the True Keys to unravel the Alchemical Process was placed in this repository, around which was to be created the Rite of Egyptian Freemasonry as inspired by this “Secret of Secrets”.
The same must be said regarding the Golden Dawn tradition as presented in the Cypher Mss. Its knowledge of Hermetic Inner Alchemy never was nor could ever become extrapolated from the actual Outer Order. Thus it is the other way around; from Hermetic Alchemy was developed the Golden Dawn in the Outer and over all its symbolism is placed the True Keys to unravel the Alchemical Process.
The initiate is prepared subconsciously and energetically in the Outer Order and its hidden alchemical symbology, to receive the advanced alchemical teaching later in his studies. But the initiate needs the true Keys to see their actual meaning. On the other hand, his due preparation makes it easier for him to grasp the alchemical doctrine intuitively after reception of the Keys. But it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand the alchemical implications of the symbology of the G∴D∴ in the Outer, from the operative angle, without this missing Key.
This may also be said of external Alchemy. You normally won’t understand the actual process of Internal Alchemy just by mere performance of the outer processes. For this you need the Keys as given by an Alchemical Master. But on the other hand you will easily grasp the Internal Process after long work with the outer, when you eventually are given these Keys from the hand of the Master.
So, unfortunately, there is no other way than a dead end to be found if one tries to extrapolate advanced alchemical formulae from the Outer Order without the possession of the Keys to unlock Hermetic Alchemy, as the entire Golden Dawn tradition depends from it. Mathers obviously possessed some of these, as may be judged from the Th.A.M. material that he created to explain the diagram of the Flaming Sword of the Kerubim.
This is also a position often held in alchemical circles that it is only few practitioners of the Royal Art who, by the Grace of God, unravel the code as contained in the ancient texts, without the aid of an true initiate of Hermetic Alchemy. The same may be said regarding the creation of a curriculum of the R.R. et A.C. I truly hope, for the sake of the students if not the teachers, that the latter has received this Divine Grace in their work.
Another point. There is often in the Golden Dawn held the opinion that there exists a natural connection between effectiveness and complexity put into a formula. Thus the Golden Dawn often created very complex ceremonial containing several parts extrapolated from the Neophyte Ritual, as suggested in Ritual ‘Z-2’.
Now it is imperative that the Adept must prepare himself duly before starting with the powerful processes of Internal Alchemy. But there are more powerful (and simpler) processes to be learned while in the Inner Order compared to the suggested analysis and implementation of Outer Order Rituals.
However, one formula doesn’t contradict or make unnecessary the other. Personally I like the idea of using a ritual based upon the 1°=10° to make a Geomantic divination, or even alchemical operation. I just recently read John Michael Greer’s Circles of Power and I really like what he suggests with the Equinox formula (that’s a topic for another essay).
But in my experience, what really started to get my secret fire to awaken (got my juices going so to speak) wasn’t any 3 hour long ceremony performed every one or two weeks, but a much more simpler rite (taking approx. 15 minutes) performed daily for a prolonged period of time, involving the activation of my internal Planets, and another even simpler meditation. But of course, the major invocations may have contributed or rather did contribute to the whole picture of my magical process in a subtler and indirect way.
And now I wonder: Why cannot these kind of exercises be allowed to be integrated with the R.R. et A.C. curriculum, or be counted as valid from a G∴D∴ context? These simpler exercises are definitely valid from a purely hermetic and rosicrucian context. And here I was assuming that the G∴D∴ and R.R. et A.C. actually was a Hermetic and Rosicrucian organization… Well isn’t it?
The problem is that people treat the G∴D∴ as a totally separate and self-sufficient organism, separated from the rest of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian community or body. We shouldn’t forget where the G∴D∴ came from. I also am strongly convinced that these isolationist tendencies were completely foreign to the minds of the founders Westcott and MacGregor Mathers. What they did was to integrate several existing traditions into a new and coherent whole. This assimilating quality of the G∴D∴ tradition is one of its strengths and should be utilized even today to further develop the tradition.
What many readers of English occult literature are missing, simply because of the Tower of Babel, is the vast richness of the continental Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions of Europe. Thus it’s not easy to look outside of the G∴D∴ box when so much information is still waiting to be translated into English. I myself, as a Swede, count myself to this unfortunate category, Sweden having turned its back towards the French culture during the 19th Century in its search for Anglo-Saxon influences.
During the “Gustavian era” (i.e. during the reign of the Swedish King Gustav III in the late 18th Century) Swedish intelligentsia and nobility was ripe with the Hermetic and Rosicrucian currents of Germany and France, during a phase where French was a second language to Swedish. Freemasonry was already imported from France and initially followed its Scottish system. Most women and men of the upper class were involved somehow in secret societies. We had active Lodges here of both the Gold- und Rosenkruetz Order, the Asiatic Brethren and E.L.U.D. During the patronage of the King Swedish Freemasonry was developing and took its peculiar esoteric form as it is renown for today. King Gustav III himself was a Freemason and his younger Rosicrucian brother, the Duke Carl (later King Carl XIII), reformed the Swedish Rite into a form it has retained until today. During this era Sweden was definitely on the map of European Rosicrucianism. But during the Victorian era all we had left here was Freemasonry.
Someone told me once that to learn about alchemy I had to learn to read French and German. I can think of yet another language. A quick google on French book titles or retail sellers of occult literature confirms this assumption to be right. English literature can only get you that far. To find the true Holy Grail of the Hermetic Tradition you have to search in different places outside of the Anglo-Saxon culture sphere.
Most European occultists know that the Hermetic tradition, as well as later Rosicrucian, is composed of the triad of disciplines, the Trivium Hermeticum of Magic (Theurgy), Alchemy and Astrology. Even if the Anglo-Saxon tradition went very far with the magical side of this tradition through the Golden Dawn, it lost track almost entirely when it approached alchemy – the ROYAL ART. In my opinion the alchemical tradition has been very much more alive on the European continent since the occult revival of the 19th century.
I believe that an “alchemical wedding” is needed today between the splendid G∴D∴ magical and qabalistic tradition, and its initiatory system, and that of continental Rosicrucian alchemy. Contrary to some, I do see a real benefit from this conjunction to create a living and traditional Rosicrucian tradition composed of the Trivium Hermeticum. Contrary to some, I don’t see this unification as foreign to the essence of the Golden Dawn.