Saturday, January 5, 2013

Religion and the Golden Dawn

by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

There is no evidence of the term “religion” being used before the 16th Century (at least not in the way we use the term today). 

Bernard Shaw
According to Bernard Shaw "There is only one religion, though there are hundreds of versions of it." Durkheim defined religion as "a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community, called a church, all those who adhere to them"(1965 [1912]: 62).

Émile Durkheim
So, what is a religion and what is its role in the Golden Dawn? 

Is the Golden Dawn a “moral community?” The G.D. is a unified system of practices relative to sacred things, but it requires no rigid belief. The Golden Dawn is a community but hardly a “moral community” in the sense that the G.D. does not espouse a specific set of moral standards. The G.D. does not provide moral guidance for the death penalty, war, abortion, or even how to treat your neighbor. 

The Golden Dawn is only the “practices relative to sacred things.” It prepares the individual for contact with forces outside material existence but requires no worship of those forces and no rigid belief system concerning its application. 

By analogy, the martial arts can be treated as a religion, a method of self-defense, an aggressive combat art, or all of the above. However, one can practice the methods of fighting without any constraints on morality or rigid beliefs. Herein lays the danger of such skills. Martial Arts mastery without some form of “moral community” teaching and the martial artist can become an evil brute.

Nevertheless, an atheist could be a martial artist and never abuse his skills. Similarly, the magician without religion can become a “dark magician” but even an atheist can become a benevolent magician. Most martial arts schools are not religious but recommend that the skills learned are to be tempered by one’s own religion. 

The Golden Dawn System of Magic teaches skills but recommends those skills be tempered by one’s own religion in the same way. If the martial arts were to become a religion, it would require that all its adherents renounce their present “moral community” and adopt its own belief system. This is not necessary and would limit the wonderful benefits of its practice to those few who would accept its teachings.
"All major spiritual traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives."  
- His Holiness Dalai Lama 
The G.D. is an initiatic spiritual tradition, having much in common with the great initiatic traditions of the East, such as Tantra, Tao, or Tibetan Buddhism. Spiritual transmissions and accompanying realizations are carried with lineage in all of the great spiritual traditions, both East and West, including in the Golden Dawn. To dismiss the importance of spiritual lineage would lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of the G.D.

Still, the Golden Dawn is not a religion. The traditional G.D. advocates a philosophy that is non-sectarian and ecumenical, encouraging respect for all religions, as is evidenced in this passage from the Neophyte ritual:
 "Remember to hold all true religions in reverence, for there is none but contains a ray from the Ineffable Light that you are seeking."  
- Golden Dawn Neophyte Ritual
This, however, has sadly not prevented sectarianism from gaining a foothold in the Golden Dawn community, especially at the Second Order level. Today, one Golden Dawn order excludes Thelemites from its Inner Order. Another order excludes not only Thelemites, but also Jews, Pagans, and Muslims from entering their Second Order level.

One Golden Dawn order recently published a document claiming that excluding all but Christians from the R.R. et A.C., is the cornerstone of the traditional Golden Dawn! This is historically inaccurate, overlooking that one of the very first Golden Dawn Second Order initiates, Moina Mathers, was of Jewish origin. She was born Moina Bergson, sister of French philosopher Henri Bergson. Their family name, descending from Poland, was originally Bereksohn.

Moina Bergson Mathers

Diversity in our Golden Dawn community is a very good thing because it means that people have more choices. Obviously, some people feel uncomfortable sharing a Second Order with Thelemites, and there are others with a "Christians only" vision of the Golden Dawn's Second Order as well. Although I completely disagree with any form of religious Aparthied in the Golden Dawn, I nonetheless reluctantly respect the right of even sectarianism to exist in the rich diversity of our G.D. community.

What is crucially important is that Golden Dawn orders should at least be fully transparent about policies excluding initiates of certain religious faiths from ever reaching their Second Order. Anyone thinking of joining a Golden Dawn order under present circumstances, should certainly ask first about religious segregation in their Second Order.

The Alpha Omega is extraordinary among Golden Dawn orders in our absolute transparency about such matters. Our position is stated clearly in the Alpha Omega Manifesto published prominently on our website here, to wit:
"Hermetic doctrine teaches that the entire Universe is ONE - and that we are all but cells in the body of this enormous cosmic entity. As such, the Alpha Omega believes in the brotherhood and sisterhood not only of all women and all men - but of all created things. We therefore hold all religions in reverence, as individual manifestations of a single underlying perennial truth.... 
The Alpha Omega is based on principles of personal responsibility, personal liberty, and self-determination. Each member of our order is accepted for initiation - and advanced in grade - exclusively according to individual merit. We do not discriminate due to race, religion, gender, sexual or political orientation."
- Alpha Omega Manifesto 

The Alpha Omega holds a unique position in today's Golden Dawn community. We are ecumenical in our approach to the Golden Dawn and nonsectarian in our membership. The A.O. incorporates multiple mysteries and symbol systems and is not merely framed in those of any one religion. We fully embrace diversity in today's Golden Dawn community and offer candidates a nonsectarian alternative to the creeping sectarianism that has unfortunately gained a foothold in our community.

É. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (New York: Free Press, 1965 [1912])

Click HERE to explore our Outer Order, undergraduate level Magical training program, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn!"
Think Different.

Alpha Omega
We make Magicians!


  1. The very term "religion" is obscure as religion itself. The most pupular interpretation is that latin "religere" means "to bind". I, personally, tend to agree that every egregore to which you're binded can be be defined as "religion". I guess that any rituals or moral standarts are only of secondary nature in order to strenghten this egregore. In fact, every egregore has its own unique behaviour and attitude to outside world, even if it has no defined liturgy or moral teachings, it's just an organic expression of each egregore. And yes, it means that even also G:.D:. could be defined as religion, based on theese criteria:-)

    This inevitably leads to question about different religious factions and sectarianism within the G:.D:. family. It's great that we have persons with different spiritual backgrounds- "fresh blood", so to say. But to say that inner circles should be restricted to christians only is a big mistake. Why should ever any fundamentalist christian choose to join different egregore? They have their own Church! But could any liberal christian, who tries to deepen his knowledge inwards and outwards, looking for another groups (egregores), still be called "christian"? This is the point- everyone who is looking for TRUTH is no catholic, methodist, adventist, budhist, muslim or thelemite anymore. He is now seeker for THRUTH and WISDOM! He has left his former egregore, which satisfies him not, in his own quest for GOD.


  2. I am a frater and we except members of all faiths, which I think is beautiful. In every initiation, practiced by all orders it says " All religions hold a spark of truth, who are we to judge what is sacred in another's eyes."

  3. Sectarianism is the evil in religion. Long Life to Golden Dawn and all who fight sectarianism in this turbulent world