Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mystical and Magical Orders of the Golden Dawn

by Alpha Omega Imperator
David Griffin

Recently, Golden Dawn authors have suggested that Golden Dawn offshoots and orders have grown in divergent directions, one "Masonic" and the other "Magical." My own independent research confirms the development of divergence, albeit in a somewhat different direction.

All Golden Dawn offshoots and orders have a Freemasonic structure, since  the Golden Dawn itself is a 19th Century reformulation of the Egyptian mysteries of the earlier Hermetic tradition, re-veiled in the symbols of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

This is by no means the only such reformulation. In the early 17th Century, with the publication the Fama Fraternitatis (1614), the Hermetic tradition was reclothed with the symbols of the nascent Rosicrucian tradition. In the 18th Century, the Hermetic and Rosicruican traditions were again reformulated, this time with the symbols of nascient Freemasonry, finding its most visible expression in the Gold und Rosenkreutz order of 1777 Germany.

Since the Golden Dawn is a Freemasonic and Rosicrucian reformulation of the Egyptian mysteries preserved by the Hermetic tradition, it becomes obvious that to call one order more "Magical" and another more "Massonic" has little meaning regarding the Golden Dawn. A fundamental distinction does exist, however, in different directions in which the Golden Dawn evolved following the 1903 schism.

Immediately following the 1903 schism, William Butler Yeats wrote an article entitled "Is the Golden Dawn to remain a Magical order?" Ever since, a chasm has emerged between those in the Golden Dawn community who gravitate more towards Mysticism and those who gravitate more towards Magick. This has created fundamental differences between one Golden Dawn order and the other, which endure in our Golden Dawn community even until today.

This is natural, since Mysticism and Magick are two quite distinct spiritual paths. The primary difference between Magick and Mysticism lies codified in the actual methods of practice, together with the Mystical or Magical inclinations of the practitioner.

The Mystical path refers to the capacity and will of the practitioner to place oneself in a passive position in relationship to eternal Being and the forces of nature, which the Practitioner begins to invoke and pray to, so they may manifest and enlighten one, thus spiritually uplifting and exalting the practitioner. 

The Magical practitioner, on the other hand, does not place him or herself in a passive state towards natural and Divine forces, but rather in a positive state. Recognizing the Divine Spark inside oneself, the practitioner actively collaborates with Eternal Being rather than waiting for its manifestations.

In Mysticism, the practitioner expects Divinity to manifest itself, and to ascend the staircase that leads from below to on high aided by the Divine hand that takes us and leads us ever upwards.

Magic does not expect this, instead conquering the Inner Planes through one's own effort rather than through Divine aid. Thus, whereas the Mystical approach is one of submission, the Magician instead is a conquerer.

A perfect example of the Magical path may be found in the Mithraic Ritual deposited in Paris, which shows one such practice of divine Ascension of the Magical initiate. While rising towards Divinity to be received like a prodigal Son or Daughter, the practitioner greets the Gods as equals that gradually appear, not fearing them or subjugating oneself before them, but admonishing them and blandishing them with Magical words that open the gates of heaven.

Whereas Magick is based on knowledge, Mysticism is based on on ignorance in the literal sense of "ignoring" or "unknowing." In fact, one of the most important mystical texts in all of Christianity, The Cloud of Unknowing, speaks of making oneself obscure, humble and ignorant before the unmanifest - to remain there, in silence, gradually emptying oneself, while waiting for something or someone (God) to come and fill the void thus created.

Thus two completely different modalities become evident. Whereas the Mystic reflects the Divine light that is poured out upon him, the Magician generates this light, becoming an emitter himself. 

A.E. Waite
The foremost exponent of the Mystical path in the Golden Dawn was Arthur Edward Waite, who completely suppressed Magick in favor of Christian Mysticism in his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross and its Inner Order, the Rosa Rossa et Aureae Crucis (Rectified Rite). Waite's Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, reconstructed in recent years and open only to Christians, today remains the most Mystical order in the Golden Dawn community.

The foremost exponent of the Magical path in the Golden Dawn was the great Mage, S.L. MacGregor Mathers. Mathers understood that the Golden Dawn primarily as a Magical rather than a Mystical tradition. Over time the Magical spiritual path has become more and more pronounced in Mathers' Alpha Omega. The A.O. today remains the most Magical order in the Golden Dawn community.

It should therefore go without saying that, unlike most other Golden Dawn orders - in the Alpha Omega - we do NOT make Mystics.

Alpha Omega
We make Magicians!

In between the Alpha Omega and the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, which most clearly exemplify the diametrically opposed Magical and Mystical Golden Dawn paths, there today exist a host of Golden Dawn orders that lie somewhere in between. Most Golden Dawn orders still teach Magick in their Second Orders, but there nonetheless remain vast differences in their approaches and goals.

There are numerous Golden Dawn orders that have not gone so far as to suppress Magick outright as did the Waite order, yet nonetheless remain quite Mystical in their approach to the Golden Dawn. Such Mystical Golden Dawn orders do not teach Magick at all in their outer order, and provide no guidance or support to their Outer Order initiates who are practicing published Golden Dawn Magick on their own. Mystical Golden Dawn orders view their Outer Order instead as serving primarily to "purge" the personality self, in preparation to receive Mystical illumination from outside the practitioner in their Second Order.

Mystical Golden Dawn orders teach that it is necessary to "loosen the ego" in preparation for Mystical illumination and that the practice of Magick in the Outer Order will stunt what they hold as the necessary purging of the personality and ego. Such methods are identical to the methods of Christian Mystics such as St. John of the Cross and Mother Theresa and other Christian mystics and have been proven effective for centuries for those seeking Mystical illumination. Clearly, aspiring Mystics are best suited for one of the numerous mystically oriented Golden Dawn orders.

That most Mystical Golden Dawn orders have not completely suppressed Magick has led to a very curious situation in the contemporary Golden Dawn community where, even though they use many of the same basic practices, two distinct types of Magick have firmly established themselves.

One type of Magick is rooted in Mysticism, holds the philosophical position that we are all born as sinners, and uses methods like those set forth in "The Cloud of Unknowing" (purgations, humility, "loosening the ego" and waiting for illumination to come from outside).

The other type of Magick is that of the purely Magical spiritual path, as taught and practiced in the Alpha Omega, which proceeds instead through spiritual exaltation, and holds rather a Hermetic philosophical position that we are all children of the Divine; holographic manifestations of the One, which is the entire Universe.

Whereas the Magick of most Golden Dawn orders today is Mystically oriented, passive, and negative (full of purgation, etc.), the Magick of the Alpha Omega is positive, active, and life affirming. Recognizing the Divine Spark inside oneself, the Magical spiritual path actively collaborates with Eternal Being, rather than waiting for its manifestations.

Whereas Mysticism is passive and seeks illumination bestowed through grace from from an outside Divinity, Magick is live-giving and self-illuminating, kindling the Divine spark present inside every Magician to burn brightly, shining like the Sun and Stars.

The wonderful thing about today's Golden Dawn community is that our diversity gives spiritual aspirants a plethora of choices. Aspiring Mystics will find their spiritual quest greatly facilitated in one of the Mystical Golden Dawn orders, where they will find all of the purgation and ego loosening they need to eventually attain Mystical illumination.

Aspiring Magicians, on the other hand, will find all of the training, support, and guidance in all aspects of the Magical spiritual path, immediately upon entering the Alpha Omega's outer order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which is a Magical order and not a Mystical one.

Again, I am not saying the Alpha Omega is the "best" Golden Dawn order, only that we do things differently. it goes without saying that, unlike many Golden Dawn orders - in the Alpha Omega - we do NOT make Mystics.

Alpha Omega
We make Magicians!

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

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  1. GH Fr. LeS,

    You wrote:

    "The other type of Magick is that of the purely Magical spiritual path, as taught and practiced in the Alpha Omega, which proceeds instead through spiritual exaltation, and departs rather from a Hermetic philosophical position that we are all children of the Divine; holographic manifestations of the One, which is the entire Universe."

    This doesn't exactly click with my brain. Could you elaborate and clarify the point being made here? It reads to me as if the AO abandons the classic hermetic idealogy. Am I reading this right and if so, what is the AO instead focusing on if not hermetic philosophy? Sorry and thanks!

    1. The main thing (in mine humble opinion), is not to misconstrue the magickal with abandonment of the divine. In my own experience it was more akin to stepping back from burning away upon getting -too- close to the sun. We are not cardboard cut-outs, we are individuals touched by and touching upon divinity. There's a very delicate balance between genius and madness, and a rather delicate alchemy to maintaining precisely the right equalibrum to, in fact, not pop an artificial chakra and lose ourselves to the forces we deal with. They are to be respected and when juggling cosmic forces thus, "Failure is made of should-haves." My ole band director, Mr. * * as well as choir teacher here in the bible-belt, Mrs. * *, would associate the mystical context here as more of a "bless me if you can" context like one sitting in the pews with their arms crossed "waiting on a miracle" to prove itself.. I'll let you in on a little secret. The differences between Adept and Master are those who rely on all the hokey-pokey and turning themselves around, and those who realize they -are- the magick.. If that helps any at all or not, it is my desire that it should upon a Time if ye be so willing. -Blessings

  2. "the purely Magical spiritual path...departs rather from a Hermetic philosophical position that we are all children of the Divine.

    The word "departs" does not mean "abandons" but rather that this is the ground we stand on. I will replace the word with one less easily misunderstood. Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. Excellent explanations of the distinction between magical and mystical.

    It seems to me that the mystical path is more aligned with a "religious" world view, while the magical path, as defined here, rejects reality-defining religions in the literal sense.

    Am I anywhere near close here?

  4. Interesting question S.V. - I tend to agree that the mystical way often sits inside a religious tradition, where it offers a perspective for those who begin to experience the esoteric core, and transform in radical ways which may not sit very well with extremes of dogmatism in the local faith. The esoteric reality of Gnosis is disturbing to orthodoxy... so the solution may be to lock the troublesome visionaries away in some monastic setting well prepared to keep them separate from the laity, whose adherence to the dogmatic letter of religious law is so necessary to the power structure.

    Dogma attempts to insert itself in this way, setting in stone HOW one may practice, and WHERE, and under what conditions; What books are acceptable, and what is considered damnable heresy!

    The paradox of it is that the mystic as mystic, tends NOT to be a trouble causer, does not seek to rock the boat, and cares less and less for the external world at all... making the monastery seem like a Heaven rather than an ideological prison.

    So what is the problem really? I think the problem is that mystics don't always remain mystics. If they travel far enough, then the need to re-engage with the outer world and make CHANGE can develop, together with the personal power to make it a viable quest.

    Magicians are engaged in the world, and cause change, both within AND without. Religion, Dogma, Normality... are not in the slightest sacred and inviolable to the game changing Magician.

    Magicians are often brought to their path by Necessity, due to oppression, due to being outcast, through having no access to the power structure of the day by dint of accident of birth or conquest. When someone is an outsider, the influx of Magia from "OUTSIDE" is less of a pyscho-spiritual revolution to one whose life conditions are already extremely harsh... and the Powers respond when the Call is TRUE and driven by pure NEED. Awakening to the reality of magic is a shock which like a flash of lightning burns away false personae along with the everyday illusions of comfort. This is not "safe" for ANY dogmatic hierarchy of secular power-hunger, however it portrays itself.

    Petty bourgeois forms of mysticism full of fashionable wanna-be "spirituality" will not put bread on the table in a famine, or save you in a 180km/h wind with -40 Centigrade conditions in the Arctic tundra. These are in fact a manufactured mysticism designed to prevent MAGIC from resulting, and unleashing change-agents into the political environment.

    Religious dogma-pushers using orthodoxy as a comfortable cloak for their temporal power hunger may control their own mystics well enough, but they wage wars against magicians. Magicians are simply not assimilable. This is why the esoteric is shunned by dogma - it is as likely to produce magicians as mystics.

    Shamanism is the answer humans evolved to respond to the exigencies of raw life, and this is the root of Magic. Mysticism comes with the luxury to sit back and contemplate.

    One of the root problems for Alpha Omega, is that it makes Magicians, and this frightens the orthodox, rattling the cages of their power structure.

    The greatest beauty of Alpha Omega, is that it makes Magicians, and continues making them...

  5. @Caput

    Now THAT was an answer worth waiting for!

    It resonates.

  6. As an Adept that has dedicated more than half of my life to the Study & Practice of a "Stripped Down" version of the Golden Dawn et R.C. "System" (mostly as a solitary practitioner) I don't see how the Mysticism & Practical Magick/Theurgy aspects of the Craft can be separated.
    In my view, they are not "Competing" aspects of the Craft, rather they go hand in hand with one another with the singular goal of Reuniting With The Godhead.
    To practice &/or Study of only one of the two (by my logic) would be a relatively pointless exercise.
    An Adept strives to unite the "Mundane" plane with the various Levels of Consciousness/Countenances of the Ain Soph Aur for the advancement of both Humankind as a whole AND ones own Spiritual Enlightenment...the Adept does so by utilizing both "Means" granted to them through their studies, practices and Operations of both the Mystical and Magickal Means.
    In short:
    To concentrate on just one of the two main areas of "The High Road" (in my humble opinion) would be a a relatively futile exercise as "Knowledge" of the "Inner Workings Of The Universe" is useless without the ability or desire to cause positive change therein through the practical application of of the Art & Science of Causing Change In Conformity With The Will (and I'm not talking about petty ego driven Desires) and visa versa.
    **Wisdom Is The Application Of Knowledge**

    1. I know this may be confusing to you, as today's eclecticism has made a muddle of things.

      I will try to put it to you in the simplest of terms.

      If you are attempting to unite with an external Godhead, you are following a Mystical spiritual path.

      If you are attempting to liberate and develop the Divine spark within yourSELF, to become the God that YOU truly are, then you are following a Magical spiritual path.

      There is no doubt that people today are using a mish mash of techniques along either one of these paths. However, the techniques of Ritual Magic are designed for Magical attainment, whereas the techniques of Mysticism are designed for Mystical attainment.

      Can you repair a European sports car using American wrenches. I suppose, but none of them quite fit in any case. It is better to work on European cars using metric wrenches and better to work on American cars using American wrenches.

      Will the techniques of Ritual Magick word for Mystical attainment. To a certain degree, yet, but this is not at all what they were designed for.

      The problem is that Mysticism has become so hopelessly muddled with Ritual Magick that it is difficult for many people to even grasp the difference any longer.

    2. Thank you for stating this Clearly VH Frater.
      Are seeking the path.

      The counter-Traditionalists only seek to decieve people into being fellow ideologies.

      We wish to develop .
      I have had toi personally deal.

      all sorts of absurbed liberalistic doctrines, until I eventually fifgugerd out

      We are in danger.

      But what is to be done (this an actual question, by the way)
      They are not mystics at all, but rather black magicias who sseek to impede the progress of true magicians.
      They have no place here!

  7. When you say a person comes to the path from need or is an outsider or has no control over their status this seems to be at odds with having free will snd therefore making ones own choices as you move tnrough life each soul is at a different point on its path back to the godhead each soul needs to experience different things in each life because of that souls needs therefore nobody will be at tje same level of development as lots of other souls. So are you saying if someone had a rough life they are more prone to come across the path of hermetics. Because I would say this is not true there are many paths to attainment of which each must choose there own. Just because s person comes from another path does not make them any less focused or spiritual. Mystics and Magicians walk the same way because much magick is a form of mystical alchemy and magick wont solve your desires it develops your souls path enhances your outlook on lifes journey it wont make you rich or enable you to control nature because nature is what formed you and you cannot remove yourself from it.Becoming wise teaches you humility and focus thus eenabling you to make the right choices in life
    for yourself. Also magick is not a quick fix to material wants magick does not recognise want it does not reconcile with an inflated ego it wont quell your hunger for knowledge because when you get to the top your still hungry for more. The path is always open to your choice. Someone questioned why tje charges are made I can answer that too temples cost money to run therefore small charges are made to help that temple run it pays for candles incense and other materials needed to run that temple. Temples do not run on fresh air.
    Initiation is best inside a dedicated temple no matter what path it takes better because that place has been dedicated to and used solely for magicks therefore the place itself takes on s power of its own. If the temple is guarded as mine is then nobody can enter without consent.

  8. "If you are attempting to unite with an external Godhead, you are following a Mystical spiritual path.

    If you are attempting to liberate and develop the Divine spark within yourSELF, to become the God that YOU truly are, then you are following a Magical spiritual path."

    You appear to be confused about the meaning of Mysticism, David. While it is true that exoteric religions conceptualize the Divine as external, Mysticism is about direct experience and knowledge of the One and the ensuing recognition that there is no other. The Mystical Godhead is not external but enshrined within the heart of the Mystic: "The LORD is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)

    By contrast, Western Magic has been largely focused on Invocation of Angels and Evocation of Spirits, which are conceptualized, at least one some level, as external to the operator.

    Although you say nothing about this directly in your article, I would not be surprised if your thesis was intended to detach Magic from its Kabbalistic (i.e. Jewish) roots. The Tree of Life, which is a principal diagram of both Kabbalah and the Golden Dawn, clearly shows that to balance Power (Magic) and Mercy (Mysticism) is Wisdom. To focus only on the Power of Geburah is to retard one's progress on the Path of Return. Remember, in addition to Power, Geburah also means Fear and "Fear is failure."

  9. @ Adam Kadmon
    Geburah is not Power, Geburah is Severity. Balance of Severity and Mercy is Power, it is the VIII of Major Arcana in its full correspondence.