Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dark Night Mystic - or Golden Dawn Magician?


by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

Over the past month or so, there has been a fascinating discussion, which has gone far to clarify the differences between the goals and methods used by various Golden Dawn orders. The discussion centers around the very real differences between the Magical spiritual path and the Mystical spiritual path.

All science grows in three main phases. These are (1) a common vocabulary, (2) correlation, and (3) effect-cause-effect. This means that every known science began by first establishing a common vocabulary that permitted its proponents to communicate. Without a clear definition of each term, conversations end up turning into arguments even when both sides are actually proclaiming the same truths.

Aristotle was quite adamant that we must always begin by clarifying our terms. Unfortunately, when important terms and concepts, such as “Magick” and “Mysticism” are used with imprecision, we end up fighting about something that isn’t really important. I won’t bother with the last two phases as they are not relevant to this discussion.

Despite having attempted to clarify the distinction between Magick and Mysticism in two previous articles, there nonetheless remains a tragic amount of confusion among aspiring Magicians about the actual differences between Mysticism and Magick. As long as leaders of our community continue to use the words "Mysticism" and "Magick" interchangeably, instead of as representing two distinct, spiritual paths that are diametrically opposed in both their methods and their goals, we should not be surprised by continued confusion among our students.

The discussion began when Peregrin Wildoak HERE wrote:
"In the first Order we purge or purify our personality selves, allowing them to be loose and clearer enough to handle the Illumination we generate via our magical practices in the second Order. This second Order magical work illuminates us enough that, eventually, we become who we are and realise (not just know) we are actually the One, and thereby we experience Theosis in the third Order." 
Peregrin above perfectly outlines the Christian Mystical approach to the Golden Dawn that found its finest expression in A.E. Waite's Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. It does not reflect, however, the methodology of the traditional Golden Dawn.

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 orders 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.

Since these fundamental differences are not so easily recognized by aspirants or by an unwary public, it has become rather urgent to clarify them. In short, it is high time that Christian Mysticism no longer be confused and conflated with Hermetic Magick.

This was further underscored when Donald Michael Kraig recently wrote an article entitled "Dark Night of the Soul" on the Llewellyn blog, in which Kraig equated the "Dark Night" of the Christian Mystical spiritual path of St. John of the Cross with the Golden Dawn's "Crossing of the Abyss," which derives from diametrically opposite Magical path of the Hermetic tradition. You can read Frater Kraig's entire article HERE.

Those who have followed this discussion will understand my frustration that the debate appears not to have progressed, despite my having already addressed these issues in two previous articles (HERE) and (HERE).

Instead, this time it was Nick Farrell who today published a new article (HERE), again entitled "Dark Night of the Soul," yet again using the terms "Mysticism" and "Magick" interchangeably (as did previously both Kraig and Wildoak) as though these two terms were synonyms describing a single spiritual path and methodology.

What each of the above referenced articles have in common is that Fratres Kraig, Wildoak, and Farrell each describe a spiritual path whose aims and methodology closely resemble the Christian Mysticism of A.E. Waite, as distinct from the aims and methods of the spiritual path of Hermetic Magick used by the traditional Golden Dawn.

From the perspective of the Hermetic and Magical traditions, including luminaries such as Giordano Bruno, Marcilio Ficino, Cornelius Agrippa, Gerolamo Cardano, Pietro D'Abano, Theophrastus Paracelsus, and Eliphas Levi (not to mention the entirety of Egyptian, Chaldeaen, and Sumerian Magick), the goals and methods that Kraig, Farrell, and Wildoak each describe in the above referenced articles are not those of Magick at all, but purely those of Mysticism.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with Mysticism as a traditional spiritual path. Mysticism is a great path and even the right or the only path for some people. It is however, diametrically opposed to the traditional Magical spiritual path in both its goals and its methods.

I am also not saying that modern Golden Dawn orders must remain static as the Golden Dawn was in 1888. It is natural that most Golden Dawn orders have evolved in a Mystical direction and have adopted many of the the aims and methods of Waite's Christian Mystical, "Fellowship of the Rosy Cross."

Nonetheless, Mysticism and Magick remain two quite distinct and separate 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. 

Whereas the Mystic seeks union with the Divine without, through subordination or "loosening" of the ego, Magicians instead are conquerors of the ramparts of heaven. Magicians seek not union with any sort of Divinity outside themselves. They seek rather to liberate from the chains of matter the "Divine spark" that lies hidden within each human being.

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.

Magick 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 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 Rosae Rubeae 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 therefore remains the most Magical order in the Golden Dawn community.

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 ... 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, as is clearly evident in the above referenced articles written by Donald Michael Kraig, Peregrin Wildoak, and Nick Farrell.

One type of order in today's Golden Dawn community is rooted in Mysticism, uses methods like those set forth in "The Cloud of Unknowing" (purgations, humility, "loosening the ego" and waiting for illumination to come from outside/on high), and draws on Mystical experiences like the "Dark Night of the Soul" of St. John of the Cross, like we have seen in the above writings of Donald Michael Kraig, Nick Farrell, and Peregrin Wildoak.

The other type of Golden Dawn order is that of the Hermetic, purely Magical spiritual path, as taught and practiced in the Alpha Omega, which proceeds instead through spiritual exaltation, and holds the Hermetic philosophical position that every human being contains a Divine spark of the One, which is the entire Universe.

Whereas the goals of what remains of "Magick" in most Golden Dawn orders today has become deviated by Mysticism; with passive methods, and self-negating aims (full of purgation, ego loosening, etc.) ...

... the Hermetic Magick of the Alpha Omega remains 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 an outside Divinity, Magick is live-giving and self-illuminating, kindling the Divine spark present inside every Magician.

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.

Thus people seeking a Mystical spiritual path are best joining either the Christian Mystical, Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, founded by A.E. Waite, or one of the Golden Dawn orders led by Donald Michael Kraig, Peregrin Wildoak, or Nick Farrell (at least judging by the mystical goals and methods they each teach on their blogs).

Aspiring Magicians, on the other hand, will find all of the training, support, and guidance you need - in all aspects of the Magical spiritual path, immediately upon entering the outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha Omega, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Again, I am not saying the Alpha Omega is the "best" Golden Dawn order. However, our goals and our methods are very different than most other G.D. orders. For example, it goes without saying that in the European headquartered Golden Dawn - we do NOT make Mystics ...

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Click HERE to explore our Outer Order, undergraduate level Magical training program.

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