Saturday, December 25, 2010

Flame War or Peace on Earth?

In an article entitled: "Is David Griffin the King of Witches?", Morgan Eckstein today rekindled the decades old, Golden Dawn flame war, writing:
"For those of you who do not know David Griffin, perhaps some context is in order. Griffin's Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn big claim to fame is that they claim that they to be the only legitimate Alpha and Omega group in the world, the only living successor to Mather's original Order, and the only Golden Dawn Order in the world to have contact with the original Third (Secret) Order that provided instructions to Mathers. 
Griffin collects old documents and lineages like I collect cats. 
Now, I will admit that my biggest problem with Griffin is the simple fact that if you go by the rules of the 1999 reformation that I am no longer an Adept. The 1999 reformation that Griffin's Order declared stripped every existing Adept of their Grade. The only way to regain your Adept Grade? Simple, join Griffin's Order."
Season's Greetings to you too, VH Frater Morgan!

I had hoped that the internet flame war that has decimated our Golden Dawn community for nearly two decades was dead and buried once and for all by now.

Let us all hope your new flame article is merely an isolated incident and does not signal the beginning of yet another decade of non-stop, daily attacks on the HOGD/AO, its leaders, and its members on a vast array of fora, websites, and blogs belonging to leaders of other Golden Dawn orders, combined with extremely nasty lies about our order and its leaders published simultaneously on tandem "anonymous" websites and blogs. You will recall that this has been the case for many years over the last two decades.

Thankfully, rank and file members of every Golden Dawn order and temple realized how badly the Internet Feud harmed our entire Golden Dawn community and let their leaders know how fed up they were with it. I have no doubt that the good brothers and sisters of the Bast temple in Denver share this sentiment with their brothers and sisters in the HOGD/AO as well.

I am deeply grateful to Golden Dawn members around the world for letting their leaders know they do not approve of flame war on the internet, deliberate misrepresentations about other Golden Dawn orders, nor attacks on their leaders on the internet. I personally have far better things to do with my time than refuting - over and over - the same bottomless sacks of misrepresentation about our order.
In the interest of continuing peace and harmony in our Golden Dawn community, I am taking time away from my family today to nip this nonsense in the bud and to set the record straight yet once again.
To begin with, the HOGD/AO recognizes that there exist today a vast array of Golden Dawn orders and temples, most of which are based on the Golden Dawn material published by Israel Regardie. Many of these orders have evolved in their own, unique direction. Certain Golden Dawn orders strive to be more like Freemasonic Rosicrucian bodies like the SRIA. Others have developed in a Thelemic direction and yet others like the EOGD in a decidedly New Age direction.

I personally have learned over the years that such diversity in our Golden Dawn community is a very good thing - as it gives people more choices. Our order, the HOGD/AO is on record - over and over - as officially embracing this diversity.

In the same vein, the GH Chiefs of the HOGD/AO have likewise further developed the HOGD/AO curriculum in a uniquely Hermetic and Rosicrucian direction. We indeed reformed the HOGD/AO in 1999 in order to better meet what we understood as the needs of GD aspirants in the 21st Century. Yes, we do now teach our initiates ritual magick from day 1 instead of making them wait until the Second Order any longer. We also indeed teach and initiate today in the entire Golden Dawn system all the way up the entire Tree of Life. It is also even true that beyond the published Regardie material, our order teaches advanced ritual magick, Hermetic alchemy, and Hermetic Internal alchemy as a path of energetic evolution in the higher Grades of our order, beginning with the 5=6, Adeptus Minor grade.
It is utter nonsense that our order has somehow stripped you of your Golden Dawn grades or in any way deprived you of your status as a Golden Dawn Adept. Your claim that the only way you can get your grades back is to join our order is utter poppycock. Even your suggestion that the HOGD/AO somehow claims exclusive access to the teachings of Hermetic Internal alchemy is both patently false and deliberately misrepresentative. 
We have stated - over and over that - although we do initiate in these sublime Hermetic and Rosicrucian teachings - we certainly have no exclusive access to them. There are numerous other esoteric schools like our own - although most others until present remain more occulted than we.

The truth is, Morgan, that our order has made great efforts - over and over for years now - to foster and maintain peace and harmony in our Golden Dawn community. The only things we do, in fact, object to are fraud, exploitation, or public deception under the banners of the Golden Dawn. I have no doubt that the brothers and sisters of the Bast temple agree with us that these things should not be happening.

Morgan, I personally enjoy many of the fine articles on your blog. You have a great sense of humor and are an excellent writer. It is, however, high time that you begin to extend the same courtesy and respect to the good members of the HOGD/AO that we extend to you and the members of the Bast temple.

As a Pagan, you certainly ought to understand what extremely bad form it is considered in the Pagan community, for one Pagan tradition to attack or badmouth another. In my opinion, the various temples and orders in Golden Dawn community ought to adopt this convention as well. Our Golden Dawn community certainly could the benefit from this wisdom.

It is in this spirit that I close this letter by extending Season's Greetings to our Golden Dawn brothers and sisters in the Bast temple as well as in all other Golden Dawn temples and orders around the world.

May we each - severally and individually - redouble our resolve and efforts to foster and maintain fraternal harmony and brotherly love in the Golden Dawn community as we enter the second decade of a new Millennium!

Sub Umbra Alarum Tuarum, Yeheshua
G.H. Frater Lux Ex Septentrionis (David Griffin)
Imperator Ordinis, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega
"Ex Deo Nascimur.
In Yeheshua Morimur.
Per Sanctum Spiritum Reviviscimus"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trials of the Moon Book Review: A New Witch War?

We in the Golden Dawn community are no strangers to flame war. The decade long periodical eruption of Golden Dawn flame war has gone far to destroy the reputation of our venerable tradition in the greater magical community.

Thankfully, this situation has improved greatly in our community, thanks to fine bloggers like VH Frater SR, H Frater AIT, and VH Soror FSO, whose fine and frequently well researched articles have raised the tone of scholarly discourse in our community to a level never witnessed before.

Sadly, events of the past week have shown that the Pagan community is not immune to flame war either, where the sort of propaganda war that we have witnessed being waged against one Golden Dawn order or the other, is now being waged clandestinely against Pagan scholar, Ben Whitmore.

For over a decade, Professor Ronald Hutton's study on the history of Wicca, Triumph of the Moon, has been considered by most Pagan scholars to have closed the book on the issue of the survival of elements of Paganism from Pagan antiquity. This has led to most Pagans defining themselves as "Neo"-Pagan, and the pervasive belief that the entire modern Pagan movement is based on mere reconstruction.

A new book has recently appeared, Trials of the Moon, by Ben Whitmore, that has reopened the case. Subsequent buzz in the blogosphere has made it clear that many Pagans are highly sensitive to these issues, and that even respected scholars are not immune to resorting to flame war tactics when cherished beliefs are called into question.

On The Witching Hour blog, for example, blogger "Peg" recently pretended to write a scholarly review of "Trials of the Moon", using flame war techniques to attempt to undermine Whitmore's credibility as an author. While completely ignoring the quite copious and well documented evidence that Whitmore presents, Peg writes:
"Whitmore is not an historian, nor even an academic. And this shows in his failure to observe the most rudimentary rules of objectivity and neutrality of stance."
I responded, commenting on her blog, exposing the flame war rhetorical tactics she was using and outlining my own objections to certain holes in Hutton's scholarship. Predictably, my comment was censored, underscoring that The Witching Hour review is not a serious critique of Whitmore's study, but merely the opening salvo in flame war designed to undermine Whitmore's credibility as an author and thereby suppress uncomfortable revelations about the holes in Professor Hutton's scholarship in "The Triumph of the Moon." 

This new-born flame war further escalated when respected Pagan scholar, Chas Clifton, quoted from "The Witching Hour" article, then added:
"Another example of [Unverifiable Personal Gnosis] UPG-fueld writing appears to be a book called Trials of the Moon, which purports to challenge Ronald Hutton’s historical books on Paganism without, y’know, actually having to do the depth of research that he does.
It’s sort of like wanting to bat against the San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum’s pitching but demanding that you get to keep swinging and swinging until you hit one over the fence—none of that “three strikes and you’re out” stuff.
Some people like it even while admitting that it “offers no alternate theory or proposes any possible history” for Wicca."
One might consider Clifton's remarks as based merely on ignorance of the actual contents of Whitmore's study. It is, in any case, clear that Clifton has not actually read "Trials of he Moon." Whitmore is quite transparent that he is not an academic, but the evidence he presents clearly demonstrates nonetheless how Professor Hutton reached unsupported conclusions in "The Triumph of the Moon" and frequently even misquoted and misrepresented his sources. 

No, Whitmore does not present an alternative history, nor does he even try to. What he does do - is to conclusively demonstrate that the case for the survival of elements of Paganism from antiquity is far from closed, and that Professor Hutton has not at all closed the book on this as Pagan scholars have believed for nearly a decade. Moreover, contrary to what is misstated on both The Witching Hour and Chas Clifton's blogs, Whitmore clearly has done (and well documented) his research.

Sadly, I must also mention that on his blog, Chas Clifton likewise censored my rather innocuous defense of Whitmore's study in response to Clifton's rather uninformed remarks and having given "The Witching Hour" hack job undue attention. Thus, I can only conclude that we now have a full scale Witch War on our hands, where even well-respected Pagan scholars are stooping to flame war tactics (like cherry picking comments that represent only one side of a discussion) in order not to deal with uncomfortable new developments in Pagan scholarship.

In conclusion, my own criticism of Professor Hutton's study lies not in that it some sort of "evil" attack on cherished Pagan myths, but rather that Hutton's study is fatally flawed. Far too frequently, Dr. Hutton plays anthropologist, although he is not trained as an anthropologist nor does he even attempt to use the ethnographic method. Moreover, as Mr. Whitmore has demonstrated, Hutton frequently misquotes and misrepresents his sources. Finally, Professor Hutton makes sweeping, speculative generalizations completely outside of the stated geographic region of his study as, for example, in Hutton's completely unqualified remarks about C.G. Leland and the origins of Stregheria in Italy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DEBATE: Is "Astral" Initiation a Scam?

In a new blog today GH Frater P.D.R. (Robert Zink) of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn today wrote:
"Have you ever wondered why one particular Order ... refer[s] to astral initiation as dangerous ..."
On the same subject, Frater Zink has elsewhere written:
"Calling Astral Initiation a Scam May Be The Greatest Scam of All."
As I have already stated on numerous occasions, I have no objection whatsoever to Robert Zink abandoning the traditional curriculum of the classical Golden Dawn in favor of New Age teachings and techniques. This is his own business and diversity in the Golden Dawn community is a good thing.

Mr. Zink is welcome to use New Age channeling for Secret Chiefs, spirit guides, or whatever Mr. Zink likes to call them. He is even welcome to sell to his order members (as he does) all of the "New Age Psychic Readings" and "24 Strand DNA activations" and so forth, that he likes. Our order, the HOGD/AO, however, will stick to teaching and practicing traditional Hermetic and Rosucrucian ritual magick and alchemy instead.

Robert Zink claims that the New Age "Astral Initiation" he sells on the internet is as good as the traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation he seeks to replace with it. Mr. Zink has, however, so far failed to provide any historical evidence whatsoever to back up the above claims, despite challenges for proof from scholars across the entire spectrum of the Golden Dawn community.

Let us therefore examine this question by looking at what various individuals from a cross section of the Golden Dawn community have said in this matter. For example, Golden Dawn scholar, Samuel Scarborough, writes:
"I think of myself as something of a scholar on the GD as well as a serious student of the GD system. The same can be said for Nick Farrell or Imhotep, or several others that say that these astral initiations are not verifiable, nor were they done in the original GD or AO or SM after the 1903 Schism in the regular sense. There is no evidence for “astral” or long-distance initiation from those orginal bodies.

I disagree with certain groups that claim that these astral (long-distance) initiations were commonplace within the original Golden Dawn. I have never seen the evidence to support the claim. Nor can I think that Westcott, Woodman, and Mathers received some astral initiation as founders of the GD in the first place."
Noted magical author, Nick Farrell (Chief Adept of the Magical Order of Aurora Aurorae), writes:
"If astral initiation was used within the GD there would be some evidence of it... If an astral initiation was taking place then where and when and why did it not leave a trace of paperwork? There are no records of astral initiations being performed, nor any members who are identified as being part of the GD who had their initiations astrally recorded. Nor is there any mention of the procedure being used in the various editions of by-laws, nor any diary notes from anyone saying that they had taken part in an astral initiation. While we have access to many different GD rituals, there are no recorded instructions for how to perform one."
Robert Zink argues that those who criticize Astral Initiation do not understand that all magick takes place on the Astral Plane:
"Virtually everything that takes place in the Hall of the Neophyte is based in the spiritual/astral current, we can only conclude that calling groups who provide Astral Initiation a scam or dangerous is simply another negative marketing ploy."
On Nick Farrell's blog, however, "Magician" addresses this claim:
"The discussion isn’t about whether or not magic can work at long distance. The discussion is about if initiation ceremonies can work long distance where there is no way to infuse the physical symbols into the aspirant’s sphere of sensation."
Nick Farrell, moreover adds:
"It really depends on what you mean. Physical initiations do have an astral component. But if you mean do I think it is possible for someone to initiate you into the 0=0 grade of the Golden Dawn without you being there I would say that it is unlikely."
No one is disputing that there is an astral component to both initiation and magick. However, what Robert Zink does not understand is that this astral element is rooted in the physical body. Robert Zink reaches a completely erroneous conclusion that, merely because an astral component is there in initiation, he can make you a "full Golden Dawn initiate from the comfort of your armchair on the other end of the world."

Robert Zink also alleges that Astral Initiation accomplishes everything that traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation does. This clearly illustrates that Robert Zink (who was never initiated himself) does not truly understand traditional Golden Dawn initiation. For example, one key element in true Golden Dawn initiation is the impression on the psyche of the candidate of the n symbols physically presented during the ritual. For example, on Nick Farrell's blog, "Poimandres" writes.
"EOGD always argues that and Initiation is not Theatre and is all about the astral (forgetting, as you say, the importance of basic psycological and emotional impact!)? Well, actually, ancient Drama copmes directly from the Dyonisian and Eleusinian Mysteries, and Tragic Festivals continued to a sacred ceremony and a sacred experience for the Athenians, which is, actually comparable to intiation ceremonies (especially masonic high degrees where only a few of the candidates participate, and most are just onlookers!).

I bet no one in ancient Greece could say that if the director mentions the name of an Athenian citizen that was out of town, before the perfomance of a Tragedy, would ‘astrally” experience the awe and pity that the tragedy inspired, and the psycologically healthy Catharthic effect of actually seeing the sacred perfomance!"
Nick Farrell adds in this regard:
"A physical initiation is an intensely emotional experience with physical and emotional reactions that have a deep impact on the person. For an initiation to have any impact, such a person should be able to feel something, if not at the immediate time, but in their dreams immediately afterwards. However the reports of people who have undergone astral initiations ... have been extremely nebulous or non-existent (or) have included comments which were so nebulous that they are more likely to be psychosomatic or wish-self-fulfillment."
Samuel Scarborough adds:
"Does long-distance (astral) initiation work? Well, I would say that at best it would be dubious... My concern, and most whom disagree with long-distance initiation, is that there is no way to verify that the person being initiated is actually receiving the energy due to the gap between the initiating body and the candidate."
Robert Zink also claims that "Astral" Initiation helps those who would otherwise not be able to contact the spirit of the order. To this Nick Farrell responds:
"So finally we come to (the) point ... that (Astral initiation allegedly) provides a person with a connection to a working group that they would not otherwise had. This is clearly true, but in my opinion any link would appear to be administrative rather than spiritual. A real initiation takes place when the person is ready."
Finally, let us address the question of whether or not Astral initiation is actually a "scam." In recent years, EOGD management has been increasingly criticized for this. For example, on Nick Farrell's aforementioned blog, "KM" wrote:
"I joined the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn on August 2nd, 2005. Thing is, a month went by and I received nothing from them in the mail and no further emails with a password or the rest. I called the Temple numerous times, leaving messages for someone to get back to me ... with no response whatsoever. It seems to me that this order is guilty of internet fraud, if nothing else, so I cannot recommend them to anyone interested in studying with a mystery school."
Sadly, KM is not alone in feeling they were "scammed" by EOGD management, as becomes clear in the below video, published on YouTube by user, "baphomet257":