Monday, March 14, 2011

Golden Dawn Lineage, Nick Farrell & Historical Revisionism

by David Griffin
Imperator Ordinis, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega®
Nick Farrell, head of the AA magical order, has recently been pursuing an agenda of drastic historical revisionism of Golden Dawn history. VH Frater SR, the Scandinavian Imperator of the HOGD/AO, recently took Mr. Farrell to task for recent revisionist remarks concerning the Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn. Morevoer, SR is presently working on an article refuting Mr. Farrell's historical revisionist book that unfairly attacks Golden Dawn founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers.

GD Historical Revisionist Nick Farrell
I am dismayed that, despite the recent removal of Robert Zink from the Golden Dawn scene, I nonetheless remain obliged to continue to refute blatant misrepresentations about the Golden Dawn tradition being made by leaders of other Golden Dawn orders. I am writing this article in response to misrepresentations recently made on Nick Farrell's blog. These misrepresentations are so serious as to either betray a blatant agenda of rampant historical revisionism, or as an alternative, at the very least, as to betray a deep ignorance by Mr. Farrell of some of the most fundamental elements of Golden Dawn tradition.

Nick Farrell wrote:
The myth: That it is incredibly important to have a connection with the original Golden Dawn. It is vital that your group claims some lineage.
The reality: If Lineage had any magical use the GD would be dead in the water as there would not be a Golden Dawn order in existence that could claim it. For Lineage to take place you would require written permission from the Chiefs of the last surviving Orders given to a fully initiated person of at least Tham.
Magically there is no advantage in having your chief received a piece of paper signed by another chief. What matters is the ability of your temple and its officers to initiate.
To begin with, Mr. Farrell's assertion is completely inaccurate that lineage in the Golden Dawn has traditionally been conveyed from Temple Chiefs to Adepts of the Theoricas Adeptus Minor grade. This appears to be historical revisionism pure and simple. It certainly has no historical precedent whatsoever in the original Golden Dawn or in any of its offshoots. In reality, the various Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages that have traditionally been transmitted through the Golden Dawn and its offshoots, have throughout history been vested in the 7=4 Grade of Adeptus Exemptus. All other assertions, such as that claimed by certain BOTA offshoots that lineage is conveyed from Chief Adept to Chief Adept, as well as Mr. Farrell's latest fabrication above, are patently false.

Secondly, when Mr. Farrell argues that "magically there is no advantage in having your chief received a piece of paper signed by another chief," he betrays a fundamental ignorance of the true importance of lineage and the actual role it plays in not only the Western esoteric tradition, but in all of the great spiritual traditions of the world as well.

Mr. Farrell erroneously suggests that lineage amounts to nothing more than a piece of paper used to fabricate some false sort of "credential." It must be granted that lineage, like trademarks, is indeed is supposed to provide a basic form of protection for the public - that what members find is actually what they associate with the name of the spiritual tradition. In the case of the Golden Dawn, one important aspect of lineage in this sense means that you will find, for example, classical, traditional, physical initiation in real Golden Dawn temples rather than recent, New Age inventions like "Astral Initiation" or "Self Initiation."

Let us give Mr. Farrell the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not deliberately attempting to deceive his readers with historical revisionism when touting his newly fabricated definition of what "lineage" means in the Golden Dawn. Even when given every benefit of the doubt, however, it nonetheless remains clear that Nick Farrell has utterly failed to even to grasp the true relevance and function of lineage in legitimate esoteric traditions.

Granted, In certain traditions, lineage may indeed merely be a formal means of mutual recognition, as it is in the case of Freemasonry, which uses charters and systems of mutual recognition between Grand lodges to establish 'regularity.' Mr. Farrell is dead wrong, however, in conflating this sort of formalistic lineage, granted by a mere succession of formal charters, with the sort of spiritual lineages transmitted through the great spritual traditions of the world, including those of esoteric orders like Martinism and the Golden Dawn here in the West.

This type of spiritual lineage is found not only in Western esoteric orders, but also in various spiritual traditions of the East. Lineage, much like trademarks, may indeed serve to prevent public confusion about a given spiritual tradition, but in the case of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions, these lineages carry with them sets of spiritual transmissions or realizations, precisely as in the case of Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism.

Here in the West, the sort of spiritual lineage transmitted through esoteric orders is not unique to the Golden Dawn. In Western esotericism, numerous orders use lineage as a means of ensuring a direct transmission of spiritual principles and energies. Martinist orders, for example, all claim lineage deriving from Louis-Claude de St. Martin.

Louis-Claude de St. Martin
L'Ordre Martiniste (the Martinist Order) came about in 1884 when Gerard Encausse (Papus) met August Chaboseau. They discovered that they had both apparently received Martinist initiation through two different chains of succession, which linked back to Saint-Martin and his original disciples.

Dr. Gerard Encausse - "Papus"
Papus claimed to have come into the possession of the original papers of de Pasqually and to have been given authority in the Rite of Saint-Martin by his friend Henri Viscount Delaage. However, Encausse realized that there was a "missing link" in his own chain of succession: he and Chaboseau therefore "swapped initiations" in order to consolidate their lineages.

There are many examples of precisely this same sort of spiritual lineage in the East. Zen Buddhism, for example, maintains records of their historical teachers who, according to the traditional history of that school, have passed the Dharma from generation to generation in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha. Dharma transmission is the formal confirmation by a master of Zen or Chan Buddhism of a student's awakening.

This one-to-one transmission is said to trace back over 2,500 years to Gautama Buddha when he gave dharma transmission to his disciple Mahakasyapa, who is regarded as the first patriarch of Zen in India. Each of the initiations of the lineages of Zen or Tibetan Buddhism carry with them certain sets of spiritual exercises that are practiced in order to achieve very specific spiritual realizations.

Indeed, it is precicely such sets of spiritual exercises, practiced in order to achieve very specific spiritual realizations, that typify all of the great spiritual lineages of the world, both East and West. Here in the West, this is precisely the case with initiation into the higher transmissions of the legitimate Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages.

One case in point is Hermetic and Rosicrucian Internal Alchemy, which uses the subtle fires of the body, including love and sexuality, to cook the "prima materia" of the body itself, to produce rapid growth of the energetic bodies of the initiate. The goal of this true "Opus Magnum" is the cultivation of a Solar Body of Light, with the objective of achieving conscious immortality in the the Solar dimension during the lifetime of the Adept, thus eliminating the need for further incarnations on a planet at the material level.

Hermetic-Rosicrucian Internal Alchemy
In answer to the questions raised by Nick Farrell, if all one is interested in is merely studying or practicing the basic Golden Dawn techniques published by Israel Regardie, then Mr. Farrell may be correct that lineage is relatively unimportant. After all, can one not equally study this material on one's own with a used $5 Regardie book? If one follows Mr. Farrell's argument to its logical conclusion, moreover, the inevitable consequence is that the vast majority of Golden Dawn orders are equally as superfluous as Golden Dawn lineage - including Mr. Farrell's own order.

If, however, one is interested in the significant potential for accelerated spiritual development that the living Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages still today have to offer - in orders and schools that are not mere study groups for published information - but instead remain legitimate outer vehicles for higher Hermetic and Rosicrucian spiritual practices - then actual initiation in these living lineages is, in fact, extremely important.

Finally, Nick Farrell once again raises the other red herring that has so often been raised by solitary practitioners of published Golden dawn material, namely that:
"Lineage does not matter. All that matters is to do the work."
Well ... this depends on how you define the "work" of the Golden Dawn. If all you are interested in is to practice the relatively elementary Hermetic and Rosicrucian magical techniques published by Israel Regardie, then why do you even need a Golden Dawn order? Can you not get by nicely merely by purchasing Regardie's Golden Dawn book together with my Ritual Magic Manual?

On the other hand - if you are interested in the true "Opus Magnum" - following a uniquely Western path with advanced spiritual techniques from ancient Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages that go far beyond what either Regardie or I ever published - then both Golden Dawn initiation and lineage do matter - a LOT.

For nearly a decade, leaders of other Golden Dawn orders, like Nick Farrell, have tried to say that our order, the HOGD/AO, has provided "no proof" that there even exist any Hermetic or Rosicrucian spiritual practices beyond that which was published by Israel Regardie or in my Ritual Magic Manual.

Well, they can't say that any longer.

For years, leaders of other Golden Dawn orders have also tried to say that the HOGD/AO claims to be the only legitimate Golden Dawn order.

Well, they can't say that any longer either.

Long ago, our order fully embraced diversity in the Golden Dawn community. Why not Thelemic Golden Dawn orders like the OSOGD? Why not New Age Golden Dawn orders like the EOGD? Why not Historical Revisionist Golden Dawn orders like Nick Farrell's?

It is precisely this diversity that helps our Golden Dawn community to grow. If people are interested in Thelema, then they should join the OSOGD. If they are more interested New Age practices, then they should join the EOGD. If they are more interested in Nick Farrell's revision of the Golden Dawn, then they should join Nick Farrell's order.

Let us remember, however, that the Golden Dawn did not just fall out of the sky. The Golden Dawn has always been part of both the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions. And whether the leaders of all of the diverse Golden Dawn orders want to accept it or not, the Golden Dawn was created from the beginning to serve as a recruitment vehicle for higher Hermetic and Rosicrucian teachings and practices, intended for the higher grades of the order.

As important as it is to embrace diversity in our community, it is equally as important that at least one Golden Dawn order continue to serve this original mission. This is why the Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages do, in fact, matter a lot to the HOGD/AO. Our order is today the only Golden Dawn order that continues to serve as an outer vehicle for higher Hermetic and Rosicrucian spiritual practices and lineages.

The HOGD/AO has, however, also said all along that, although we are presently the only "Golden Dawn" order that serves as an outer vehicle for higher Rosicrucian and Hermetic lineages, we are certainly not the only initiatic school that serve as such a vehicle.

In recent months, I have provided conclusive proof of all of this, by creating an entirely new outer vehicle for salient aspects of the higher Hermetic and Rosicrucian mysteries in America, that we call The Great Rite. If you have not yet checked out The Great Rite website, you should.

Because of The Great Rite workshops, the HOGD/AO is no longer the only school in America that teaches mysteries of Hermetic Internal Alchemy. These teachings are too important to be kept only in the highest grades of any Freemasonic-style order, including the Golden Dawn. If you are interested in learning Hermetic Internal Alchemy, you should certainly enroll in the workshops of The Great Rite. 

On the other hand, if you are interested in Ritual Magic or the Golden Dawn, you should absolutely join the HOGD/AO. In my honest opinion the HOGD/AO is the best and most thorough school of ritual magic that exists anywhere in the world today. Moreover, the HOGD/AO still remains the only Golden Dawn order that serves as an outer vehicle for the higher Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages and spiritual practices.

And before Nick Farrell or any other Golden Dawn leader comes up with the bright idea to try to misrepresent this - as has happened with our order so often in the past - let me clarify once and for all: The entire Second and Third Order curriculum of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega is unique unto our order. Even the teachings and practices of Hermetic Internal Alchemy taught in the AO are different than those taught in The Great Rite workshops.

This means that, in the HOGD/AO, beyond the published Regardie material, you will find advanced practices that come directly from ancient Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages, and not from Thelema, the New Age movement, or that have been fabricated wholesale by Pat Zalewksi or Nick Farrell.

Again, the HOGD/AO has nothing against any of these other Golden Dawn orders. We fully accept their right to exist and appreciate the function that they actually fulfill. We do not, however, want to be confused with them either.

In our diverse Golden Dawn community, our order, the HOGD/AO, today still remains a Hermetic and Rosicrucian bastion, standing proud as a thoroughly traditionalist alternative to the plethora of New Age, Thelemic, and Revisionist Golden Dawn orders that make up much of our diverse Golden Dawn community today.
Where No Man Has Gone Before ...


  1. I'm proud of belonging to this Order, I cannot be impartial or cold-objective in my comment. I'm really thankful for what I have learned and changed my life without question.

    Peace profound, in LVX

  2. And herein lies the conundrum.

    This comment is not written in the spirit of contention, but rather as a good-faith inquiry.

    Are not the mysteries written upon the face of nature for those with eyes to see to discern?

    Are higher states of consciousness, truth, understanding, and ancient wisdom within the sole repository of one group and its untraceable (not susceptible to objective verification) lineage?

    It seems to me that high adepthood is not and should not be solely attainable through only one source. I can see the argument, although I am not convinced, that claims to this effect are simply control and power issues resulting from unperfected personalities.

    I do not pretend to be as scholarly on these topics as I know many of you are from reading this and similar blogs. It is my intuition I am working from here. I admit I could be very wrong, but that thought seems counter-intuitive to me.

    Again, my questions arise on good-faith and are not intended to accuse or ruffle feathers.

  3. Dear SV,

    Of course the mysteries are written on the face of nature for those with eyes to discern! One must, however, first learn the "language of the birds", the secret language of the alchemists, to be able to understand them!

    There also exist mysteries, actually dangerous to the energetic natures of those unprepared. Thus these mysteries have been safely contained behind a strict veil of initiatic secrecy since time immemorial.

    The conundrum you intuit is but the fruit of the Internet age, wherein there is not merely the hope - but even the expectation - that ALL information must be readily available at the click of a mouse.

    This notion is anti-traditional to the extreme for many reasons, not the least of which I just mentioned above.

    In the age of the Internet, there is a prevalent belief that any secrecy at all is but a question of power. Clearly there is a need for legitimate secrecy in any organization, however. Coca-Cola does not reveal its secret formula on the internet, for example, or the company would not long survive. Likewise every plant needs its roots hidden in darkness. Expose them to the light and the plant will surely die.

    Are there those who abuse secrecy? Sadly, yes - even at the international level, as Wikileaks has recently made plain. This does not mean that a certain amount of legitimate secrecy is not necessary, however, even for a nation-state to survive.

    Power is certainly not the only reason for initiatic secrecy. You are mistaken about this. There is also the logical and gradual progression of ever more powerful energetic technology according to the preparedness of the initiate to assimilate the new energetic growth into his or her Sphere of Sensation. Overload is possible, and can cause great harm to the unprepared.

    (continued below)

  4. (continuation)

    Regarding lineage, your position is also anti-traditional, which in the Golden Dawn community is unsurprising. Here people not only frequently do not respect the sanctity of oath-bound information, they sadly even fail even to understand its purpose.

    The Pagan community these days seems to understand secrecy better than the Golden Dawn community, particularly the BTW folks. Seldom, if ever, is all information regarding lineage ever made public. Most of it remains oath-bound within the organization itself. Witches understand and respect this, whereas the Golden Dawn community still apparently does not!

    Many in the Golden Dawn community seem to expect that even the highest practices of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions should be readily available in cheap Llewellyn format, or preferably even to download for free in a torrent.

    Even worse, in our misguided community there sometimes is even a competition among "Adepts" to see who can violate a secret first, just to get their name attached to it, as did Regardie. I am reminded of the recent "Book of the Tomb" incident last year, when last we had this discussion. We have already discussed these issues over and over "ad nauseum" however.

    This lack of respect - and even of understanding - for vows of secrecy is why at The Great Rite, we now use legally binding and carefully drafted confidentiality agreements (with legal teeth) to protect the sanctity of oath-bownd information instead of oaths.

    Another misunderstanding that you are operating under: The highest teachings of Internal Alchemy certainly are available from more than one source. There are numerous outer vehicles here in the West, for example, of which the HOGD/AO and The Great Rite are only two. At the highest levels, the highest practices, moreover are nearly identical in all of the great alchemical traditions of the world, in the Egyptian (Hermetic-Rosicrucian), the Tantric, and even in Taoist alchemy.

    Do not expect to find the highest mysteries of the Eastern initiatic traditions available to download in a torrent either, however. Surely, the Eastern traditions have had their would-be Regardie's as well. Notwithstanding, however, the summit of Internal Alchemy remains safely protected behind a strict veil of initiatic secrecy in the East, as it does here as in the West as well.

    David Griffin

  5. @SV: If I may take the opportunity to answer this, as I see it today (L.e.S. may correct me if I'm wrong). Cosmic consciousness and Union with the ALL, as well as Immortality, is the birthright of every human. But there exists a particular set of teachniques thay may facilitate this birthright. These techniques constitutes a tradition and thus a lineage. Lineage, passed from a true initiator to the initiate, also confers direct changes of consciousness; this should be the case in all geniune initiation, also that of the Golden Dawn in the Outer, although changes in the latter are more subtle compared to initiations of a higher degree or arc.

    But I must emphasize that there exist several different (althought they are not THAT different in essence, only in culture and language) traditions which are probably equally effective, both in the West and the East. The particular tradition that G.H. Fra. L.e.S. is referring to is part of the Western Hermetic Alchemical Tradition, which has many similarities with Hindu and Tibethan Tantra and Daoist Internal Alchemy; there are some differences but many similarities - they are all part of the Alchemical Tradition. However, Cosmic Consciousness and Union with the ALL, and perhaps even conscious Immortality, may be achieve by other means as well, such as contemplative mysticism and Theurgy. However, those who have experienced the true Alchemical Tradition (both Occidental and Oriental) knows that its formulae of energetic manipulation and transmutive powers of matter are second to none.

    So, in part you are right that the mysteries of the ALL talks to us all through Nature, but there also exists man made formulae, based upon millenia of experience amongst a long chain of initiates, and highly evolved teachers which can provide a "short cut" to experiencing states of consciousness which are the innate part of Nature.


  6. Mr. Griffin and S.R.,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies to my questions. Your clarifications certainly help me to understand your position on these matters. I realize these issues have been discussed ad nauseum, but I was not there for those discussions. Thank you for according me your personal attention. I appreciate this deeply.

  7. Care SV,

    Thank you for your kind words. My response was but superficial considering your genuine interest in the subject. I would therefore like to refer you to two previous articles on this blog, where you will find a far more in depth answer to some of the questions that have been raised here yesterday.

    David Griffin

  8. Your language is awesome friend. Very informative and helpful blog. The real work shows.