Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sexuality & the Golden Dawn (Interview with David Griffin)

Soror Sophia, here. I am here this morning with David Griffin, GH Frater Lux ex Septentrionis, the International Imperator of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega®. David is also the author of the groundbreaking, Ritual Magic Manual, so sought after that it has been recently selling for as much as $1,000 on the internet.
David Griffin
David is here today to discuss Sexuality and the Golden Dawn with us. David claims he was contacted in 2002 by the Golden Dawn's mysterious "Secret Chiefs of the Third Order," who gave him the initiation rituals and teachings that complete the highest grades of the Golden Dawn system. These had been left unfinished due to the untimely death of Golden Dawn founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers in 1917 due to an influenza epidemic in Europe.

Welcome, David. It is nice to have you here, and discuss these things with you.

Thank you, it is nice to be here.

The entire subject of esoteric sexuality and the Golden Dawn is highly controversial. We live in a period when openness toward sexuality and sexual content is a hallmark of Western attitude. Yet, the idea that teachings on sexuality are part of the Golden Dawn is causing such a stir in the community. This has led to a lot of negativity and tension and arguments among various Golden Dawn personalities to the point of fear mongering. As someone who isn’t an adept of the order, I find the whole issue confusing. I am hoping by having you on the air we can clear things up for people like me, who are interested in the topic, but are also put off by fuss.

Let me start by asking you this question that has most likely crossed the mind of many-to-be initiates of your order. If I was to join your order today, can I continue my education through the Golden Dawn grades without getting involved in any practical sex magic?

The answer to your question is a resounding yes. To begin with, we need to get clear on what is actually meant by 'sex magic'. Neither the original Golden Dawn, the Stella Matutina, nor has our order, the Alpha et Omega ever employed nor do we today employ physical sexual activity in ritual, in the sense that is sometimes ascribed to certain rituals of the OTO, nor do we endorse the sort of ritualistic sexual experimentation carried out by Aleister Crowley.

Aleister Crowley

There are no orgies in the Alpha et Omega, nor are we an order of hedonists. The topics of sex and magic are taught within the order according to classical Hermetic and Alchemical principles. It is no different than taking a sex-ed class. You don’t really expect to go there to practice sex hands on. Frankly, it would have been easy for us to just skip the whole topic and avoid the controversy like others have done. We chose to put the tradition before convenience because we firm believe in being the true bearers of the torch of the classical, traditional Golden Dawn.

I have read some tough stuff on the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn website attacking you with slogans like "No sex magic in the Golden Dawn!," and accusing you that all of this is just a red herring designed to take advantage of lower desires. EOGD leader, Robert Zink has even written that "sexual alchemy has nothing to do with the Golden Dawn or the magic of Light."

I read some of that stuff too. To make any sense of this, you must consider that there is more than one Golden Dawn order around. For the longest time, all you really needed to start a Golden Dawn order was books on the Golden Dawn published by Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie. Some of these Golden Dawn orders have been doing really good work, but others have deviated substantially from classical Golden Dawn, abandoning even traditional initiation in favor of dubious, "Astral Initiations."

Our order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, within S.L. MacGregor Mathers Rosicrtucian Order of Alpha et Omega is very traditionalist. This means that we remain faithful to the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions.

I am all for diversity in the Golden Dawn community, however. I personally have no problem even with Robert Zink abandoning classical fundamental Golden Dawn principles and transforming his EOGD in a decidedly New Age direction. I do find it ironic, however, that people who don’t stick to the cornerstones of the Golden Dawn tradition in spirit and practice are the first to dismiss classical Golden Dawn teachings that they are not familiar with, simply because it wasn’t in print.

The idea that positive sexual transformation isn’t part of the magic of Light is akin to saying before someone attains spiritual enlightenment they need to castrate themselves. Yesod is as much part of the Tree of Life as Kether. The word Yesod means foundation and we associate this emanation with the genitals in human body. The foundation of the whole Tree of Life lies in this sexual energy that has the corresponding Divine Name El Chai (God the Ever Living). We talk in the Golden Dawn about the middle path. This path takes us right from the material world to the highest Divine crown through the beautiful solar fire we associate with being an adept. It does so through the foundation of the Great Work – the living energy of sacred sexuality. Frankly, sexual alchemy has everything to do with the magic of Light because it is its foundation according to the Golden Dawn and western occultism.

I believe one of the reasons many people formed an opinion that sex magic and the Golden Dawn are incompatible stems from a prevalent belief that "If Mathers didn't write it, then it ain't Golden Dawn." This later translated into “If Regardie didn’t write it, then it ain’t Golden Dawn” especially since Regardie’s book is the primary guide for Golden Dawn teachings to modern practitioners.

These are indeed drawbacks of relying on published content as one’s guide to the teachings of a secret society that existed in an era that requires a lot more discretion when it comes to sensitive topics such as sexuality.

One of the things to remember is that the Golden Dawn didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. It has its roots in much older traditions. The Golden Dawn is both a Hermetic and a Rosicrucian order. Our critics fail to consider two things.

First of all, Mathers had his own teachers that he called Secret Chiefs since he was sworn to protect their real identities. The same holds true for my teachers as well, which come from the Hermetic same order that Mathers' teachers did.

The other thing that our critics fail to consider is that S.L. MacGregor Mathers died before he could ever finish developing the Golden Dawn system. The Golden Dawn is a ten grade system corresponding to the Sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, beginning with Neophyte and Zelator at the bottom of the tree, and ending with the Magister Templi, Magus, and Ipssissimus grades on top. Mathers was only half way through putting the teachings together when he died in a flu epidemic that burned through Europe.

S.L. MacGregor Mathers

Yeah. I remember you talking about this before. Didn't you finish some of this development in your Ritual Magic Manual?

Yes. I did. Mathers had only finished integrating Enochian and Qabalistic magic for the Elements, but not for Planetary and Zodiacal magic before he died. I finished this integration in 1999. But what has caused so much controversy was when the Secret Chiefs, who had created the Golden Dawn to begin with, contacted me in 2002 and gave our order all of the materials for the highest grades of the order that Mathers died before he could finish.

When we talked in the past, you had mentioned to me that one the advanced teachings you received from the Secret Chiefs were secret techniques concerning Hermetic Inner Alchemy. You also mentioned that this involves both love and sexuality.

That is right. We are a Hermetic order, and thus our attitude toward the relationship between sexuality and spirituality is as it has always been in the true Hermetic tradition. For 2,000 years, the Hermetic tradition has radically diverged from the sexually repressive attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church.

I am aware that the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn has moved in a decidedly Roman Catholic direction. I noticed a recent YouTube video that the EOGD released, in which they conflate the Egyptian Goddess, Isis, with the virgin Mary. The Roman Catholic church has been doing this sort of stuff for Centuries as a tactic to try to wipe out Paganism.

The Hermetic tradition has never been a Roman Catholic one. On the contrary, the Hermetic tradition managed to survive DESPITE the Vatican and its Holy Inquisition. In fact, the entire history of the Hermetic tradition is filled with a friendly relationship with Pagan movements, not a hostile relationship as has been the case with the Roman Catholic church. Even the Neophyte ritual in the Golden Dawn instructs to hold all religions in high regard, as there is truth to be found in all of them!

Likewise, unlike the Roman Catholic church and my critics from other Golden Dawn orders, the Hermetic tradition does not see sexuality as anything sinful in any way. We don't see any real distinction between sprit and flesh either. This mistaken distinction unfortunately became enshrined early on Christianity because of the Roman Catholic church. There were from the very beginning, however, Gnostic Christian groups that fully embraced the spiritual importance of sexuality and the mysteries of spiritual sexuality. These have been recently referred to as the "Magdalene Mysteries" and were even mentioned in the film, "The DaVinci Code".

In the Hermetic tradition, we see the human body as an essential aspect of spirit. Our bodies are the vehicles or Temples of Spirit.

Everything you have told me so far makes perfect sense. It is unfortunate to see how it ruffled some feathers. I can’t say for sure what went through their minds. It could be jealousy especially among groups that only have the half of the system. It could also be that some people have projected too much of their Roman Catholic upbringing or religious beliefs unto a Hermetic system like the Golden Dawn.

I can understand some people's feathers being ruffled - but the work of our order is not about stroking people's egos. It's about finally making advanced spiritual technology and accelerated energetic evolution available to people.

Nothing justifies throwing such negativity on the path being trodden by sincere seekers looking for unity and oneness and soul growth. Such negativity does people a disservice because it makes it harder to access authentic Hermetic teachings thanks to all fear-mongering nonsense.

OK. I can guess from everything we discussed so far that you disagree with the statement that spiritual sexuality in the Golden Dawn is a red herring designed to take advantage of lower desires.

Absolutely! Statements like this are red herrings intended to frighten people away from our order. More importantly, however, such prudish, repressive attitudes towards sexuality demonstrate a profound ignorance not only of the true nature of the Golden Dawn, but of the entire Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions as well.

People who react in Golden Dawn circles with prudish and repressive attitudes towards sexuality are clearly stuck in Victorian ethics and the belief that sexuality is somehow sinful or evil.

By contrast, in the highest teachings of both the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions, love and sexuality are understood precisely as they are in the highest teachings of the Taoist and Tantric alchemical traditions in the East. In all true alchemical traditions, no matter where they are found around the world, love and sexuality are equally seen as two primary motors for spiritual development.

I honestly find it bizarre that people are projecting such Victorian ethics on a society that was marked by its progressive attitude in the spirit of its time. In the true, classical Golden Dawn, the concept of sexual polarity lies at the very heart of the GD system. The Golden Dawn was revolutionary in admitting both men and women on an equal basis already in 1888. The concept of sexual polarity permeates the entire symbolism of the Golden Dawn's rituals and teachings. It is beyond my comprehension how any Golden Dawn leader can properly teach their students unless they have fully grasped such a fundamental principle in the Golden Dawn as the central importance of sexual polarity.

The notion of sexual polarity also permeates the Qabalah, as any serious researcher will attest. In a similar vein one can see that the same concept of sexual polarity permeates much of the work of A.E. Waite and is particularly evident in his 'Holy Kabbalah' and in much of the imagery of his rituals for the higher grades of Waite’s, Fraternity of the Rosy Cross.

AE Waite
Even BOTA, which developed out of the Alpha et Omega, Paul Case's successor, Ann Davies, gave considerable prominence to the concept of sexual polarity, Ann Davies also delivered a long and lengthy series of lectures on this very subject, some of which recommended the sexual practice of 'Karezza.' In short, the concept of sexuality is inextricably involved with the Mysteries, and particularly as found within the Golden Dawn, Alpha et Omega, and Stella Matutina systems.

This certainly does not sound like there is "no evidence of spiritual sexuality in the Golden Dawn" as some of the other Golden Dawn groups have claimed.

The fact that teachings regarding sexuality have always been primarily a transmitted in the Golden Dawn and the Alpha et Omega via oral tradition does not mean that there is no other evidence of these things.

Golden Dawn historian Ithell Colquhoun, for example, wrote an important biography of S.L. MacGregor Mathers. This biography does have certain errors and is flawed in a number of respects. Colquhoun is quite right, however, to give some prominence to the question of the importance of sexual energies within the Golden Dawn. In fact many of Colquhoun's speculations or intuitions, based on slender evidence, have been proven by subsequent research to be very accurate.

Ithell Colquhoun

Particularly noteworthy is Colquhoun's mention of an oral tradition regarding sexuality within the original HOGD as well as in the Alpha et Omega. Colquhoun also mentions that, in her opinion, the sexual aspects should appear in the highest grades of any occult fraternity, including the projected Third Order of the original Golden Dawn, as is presently the case in the Third Order of Mathers’ Alpha et Omega.

Colquhoun further discusses actual rituals pertaining to sexual polarity performed by early members of the Golden Dawn. In particular, she discusses at length the unpublished "Lilith" ritual of A.E. Waite that she found at the Warburg Institute. Finally, Colquhoun also discusses issues pertaining to Golden Dawn ritual and tantra groups regarding sexual polarity and the role of women in both tantra groups as well as in the original Golden Dawn.

What about the argument put forth by Robert Zink of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn that it allegedly is well established fact that S. L. MacGregor Mathers and his wife Moina lived in a celibate marriage and that this proves that there is no spiritual sexuality in the classical Golden Dawn tradition?

In reality, no reputable Golden Dawn historian has ever presented a single shred of evidence to support such a preosterous notion. If those inventing such myths had any real evidence, they would have produced it long ago. All Robert Zink and the proponents of the celibacy myth have done until now is to quote a letter from Moina Mathers to Annie Horniman completely out of context.

Annie Horniman
Even in this letter, Moina Mathers does not actually say she lived in a celibate marriage with Golden Dawn founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers. What she does say is that their marriage is "pure." Contrary to the interpretation of the chastity myth proponents, marital purity is not necesarily the same thing at all as chastity. It more likely refers to marital fidelity. To interpret this as making it "well established fact that the Mathers were chaste" is once again based on mere prudish, Victorian attitudes towards sexuality.

Moina Mathers

What then do the Mathers and other early Golden Dawn Adepts actually say about sexuality and the Golden Dawn in their writings?

To begin with, sexuality is treated somewhat more explicitly in certain original Theoricus Adeptus Minor documents written by Mathers, particularly in one paper known as 'The Opening of the Knowledge of the Masculine and Feminine Potencies necessary unto the the manifestation of all things, symbolized in the diagram of the Flaming Sword between MTTRVN and SNDLPVN'.

Next it should also be noted that the once Chief Adept in Anglia, Florence Farr, also alludes to a sexual doctrine in the Golden Dawn Flying Roll XIII, entitled "Secrecy and Hermetic Love."

Florence Farr

More importantly, however, in a letter to Annie Horniman dated 8 January 1896, from S.L. MacGregor Mathers himself writes:

"I must ask you, whenever matters of sex arise in the Order, and you are asked for instruction thereon: to refer them to G.H. Frater N.O.M."

S.L. MacGregor Mathers

It should be noted that Mathers here asks Horniman to obtain direct or oral teaching on the subject from Golden Dawn Chief Wynn Westcott, and he does not refer her to any documents issued by the Order. This is a clear reference to the Golden Dawn oral tradition on this subject.

Wynn Wescott

Next, Moina Mathers, writing to the relatively prudish Annie Horniman, attributes teachings on the "Sex question" to a much "higher grade" than 5=6. In fact, in the aforementioned 1895 letter misquoted by my detractors, Moina Mathers actually writes to Anne Horniman:

"Knowing as yet only something of the composition of the human being as a Theoricus Adept, you are really not in a position to form an opinion on these subjects . . . discussed as . . . the human sexual connection. . . . So if one of these . . .come up you would have to refer the question to a member of a much higher grade than Theoricus Adept.
In short, Horniman was upset about a sexual instruction and wrote complaining to Mrs. Mathers. who responded that Horniman was unfit to judge matters concerning spiritual sexuality because she did not possess the complete instructions of a "much higher grade."

Moina Mathers

Then there is the letter that Moina Mathers wrote to Paul Foster Case, explicitly alluding to teachings in relation to sexual polarity in the Higher Grades of the Alpha et Omega:

Paul Foster Case
"Care et V.H. Frater Perseverantia,
As I hear that the Sex Theory subject has been under discussion in Thoth Hermes Temple, I should like to say a few words to you on the subject. I regret that anything on the Sex question should have entered into the Temple at this stage for we only begin to touch on sex matters directly, in quite the higher Grades. In fact, we only give a rather complete explanation of this subject in that Grade where the Adept has proved to be so equilibrated and spiritualized that he is complete lord of his passional self. Believe me, this is not mere theory. I am not speaking to you from a merely theoretical point of view . . ."
Finally, there is case of female Alpha et Omega initiate, Dion Fortune, who like Paul Foster Case went on to found her own occult school. Having joined the Alpha et Omega in 1919 Dion Fortune quickly aroused the anger of Moina Mathers as too independent for her grade level. Trouble began when Dion Fortune published a work entitled "The Philosophy of Love and Marriage" in 1925. Moina Mathers objected to Dion Fortune’s open disclosure teachings on sexual polarity in the higher grades of the Alpha et Omega. Several other statements Dion Fortune published in the Occult Review irritated Moina Mathers so much that it ultimately led to Dion Fortune leaving the AO.

Dion Fortune

Here is one such statement Dion Fortune made, and I quote:

"The management of the sex forces is an exceedingly important thing in occultism, and the attitude towards sex in the east and in the west is poles asunder."

Here is another one:

"Those who have entered into the deeper aspects of occultism know that Kundalini, the Serpent Force which lies curled up at the base of the spine, is really the sex force which has its centre in the sacral plexus from which issue the nerves which govern the reproductive organs. In the normal way, this force is fully absorbed in its physiological functions, but there are two ways of rendering it available for other purposes, for its psychic aspect it is a very important potency on the Inner Planes; it can be sublimated above its natural plane of expression, as done by the ascetic; or it can be degraded."
From the conflicts between Moina Mathers and both Paul Foster Case and Dion Fortune, we see clear and compelling evidence of the sexual mysteries in the Golden Dawn and Alpha et Omega. These were, however, and still remain the most carefully guarded treasures of the order. The conflicts with Paul Foster Case and Dion Fortune also show to what lengths Moina Mathers actually went to protect the sanctity of these mysteries."

You have presented a compelling argument. Before we move on, do you have anything else you would like to say in response to those who have tried the paint these mysteries as out of sync with the Golden Dawn?

How about I let the words of former Alpha et Omega initiate, Dion Fortune answer some of these absurd notions. I quote:

"Anybody who regards sex as evil, or is in any way afraid of it or self-conscious about it, had better leave occultism alone; for it is only through a perfectly naturalistic attitude towards giving of life that life force can be handled. Let it never be forgotten that there is no such things as sex force per se, but that it is simply the life force on a particular level, and that through this level the force must pass every time it rises and descends on the planes."
Finally, there can no better rebuttal to those who like to create a sexually repressive variant of the Golden Dawn than the words of Moina Mathers herself. I quote here from a circa 1900 interview about the Mathers' “Rites of Isis" in Paris. Moina writes:

"How can we hope that the world will become purer and less material when one excludes from the Divine, which is the highest ideal, part of its nature which represents at one and the same time the faculty of receiving and giving - that is to say love itself and its highest form---love the symbol of universal sympathy? That is where the magical power of women is found."

To Moina Mathers words, I would only like to add that this is also where the magical power of men is found.

I would like to discuss now some of the basics of sexuality and the Golden Dawn, if you don’t mind. You mentioned earlier that one of the Hermetic teachings is to see the physical body as the seat of both consciousness and spirit. Am I correct?

That's right. In Hermetic Science we define Spirit in a very specific way though. To put it most simply we see Spirit quite as solar and stellar energy. We see Spirit as the energetic aspect of our natures. Our Mother is the Earth. She gives us the matter for our physical bodies. Our Father is the Sun, however, that gives us our vital energy that is the essence of life itself.

So in Hermetic Science, you define Spirit and Flesh as energy and matter?

That's right. But we take this even a step further. The Hermetic tradition has been saying that spirit and flesh are two forms of the same thing for thousands of years. Interestingly, thanks to Einstein, science recently confirmed this, although science says it using slightly different language. Modern physics says that matter and energy are two forms of the same thing, just existing as different frequencies of vibration. Einstein even defined this relationship mathematically.

Hermetics takes this notion yet a step further though, and science is on the verge of to proving this as well. Hermetics say that consciousness itself is a function of this one thing that is both spirit and flesh, or matter and energy as modern science calls these things. This is an absolute cornerstone of Hermetic philosophy. You find this same notion repeated in numerous of the world's other great spiritual traditions as well, especially in the East.

Ah! Since energy and matter, or Spirit and Flesh are different forms of the same thing, and since consciousness is a function of the body, then by affecting the body you also affect consciousness.

Absolutely. This is an important principle of the Great Work!

It is the true basis of Hermetic alchemy. We transform our consciousness by transmuting the matter of the physical body into energy. This is the very essence energetic evolution put into its simplest terms.

But where do love and sexuality come in?

In all of the classical alchemical texts you find alchemists cooking the "prima materia" in flasks called Athanors. The same is true in internal alchemy, except that everything is inside of you. Your physical body itself is the athanor and the matter of your body is the true "prima materia." In inner alchemy, everything you find in the alchemical texts are really allegories for things inside of you.

Even the fire that heats the athanor is inside of you. In internal alchemy, it is the subtle fires of the body itself that we use to "cook" the matter of our bodies into ever purer forms of energy. Love and sexuality are two essential and extremely powerful of these subtle inner fires.

You mean we transform our physical bodies into energy by cooking our matter with love and sex?

Yes! This is exactly what you do in Hermetic Internal Alchemy.

I think most people back in the day would have been bothered by this kind of thinking.

Precisely - and this is one important reason why this knowledge has been kept so hidden for thousands of years. If this had come out only few hundred years ago - we could have all gotten burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for such heretical notions.

Sounds pretty dangerous to me.

Dangerous? Historically - you bet it was. And this is why the myth of alchemy as a gold cooking pseudo-science has been so useful. It allowed initiates to preserve and secretly communicate the actual techniques of Royal Art of Alchemy using analogies that would not get us burned at the stake!

Yep. Early Christianity posed a serious danger to the survival of the Royal Art of the ancient Egyptians, so the great Adepts of the past became very creative to keep they mysteries intact.

Believe it or not, certain great Initiates even managed to encode and hide many important principles of Hermetic Science in the stories and rites of the Christian church itself. In things like the mass, the eucharist, and the use of bread and wine. This initiatic meaning of these things would be a blog in itself though.

Well ... things have certainly changed today. At least you can talk about these things openly today without fear of getting burned alive!

This is true. But this doesn't mean that there is no danger at all in discussing these things openly even today. Just look at all the heat I received from "esoteric" Golden Dawn orders due to my openness about this! Most people would have kept this to themselves to avoid this kind of modern day inquisitions.

Is there anything that you would like to add David, in conclusion?

I would only like to underscore that our order, Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega and our outer order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, are inheritors of the highest wisdom of 2,000 Hermetic tradition. As such, we teach all three spiritual disciplines that have been the primary spiritual practices of the Hermetic tradition for over two millennia: Hermetic Magic, Alchemy, and Astrology.

Hermetic Science teaches that material life on planets is just a caterpillar stage to life as pure energy - inside the Sun and stars - at the fast end of the universe vibrating at the speed of light! In truth - the Royal Art of Alchemy is the Hermetic Science of energetic development - of evolution of Soul.

True alchemical transmutation - Lead into Gold - uses love and sexuality as subtle fires - to grow a Solar Body of Light - or, in other words, to cultivate a Soul - we do this by transmuting our physical bodies (Lead or Prima. We do this by transmuting our physical bodies (Lead or Prima Materia) - into pure Solar energy (Gold or Spirit). The ultimate goal of the Great Work (or Opus Magnum) of alchemical transmutation - is for to ascend at death into the Solar Dimension - inside of starlight and the Sun - thus becoming consciously immortal.

You also find this same notion of love and sexuality as transmutative fires of our bodies in all the great spiritual traditions of the East - In Tantra as Kundalini - In Taoism, as Chi and Ching ... and as LVX (Lux) in the Hermetic tradition.

The great news is that we do not have to go looking for this wisdom in the East. We have our own tradition of spiritual sexuality right here in the West in an unbroken lineage and initiatic transmission that goes back not hundreds, but thousands of years.

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