No, not those Olympics!
This follows on from a discussion on a Facebook group the other day, in which a poster alleged that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn viewed the Olympic Spirits as “evil.” This rather astounded me, as I had never heard of such a thing. In fact, in Regardie’s Black Brick, the Olympic Spirits are not mentioned at all, save for a diagram of their sigils, which is presented without elaboration.
However, Regardie’s book describes rituals which were notoriously truncated. By going back to older versions of the Outer Order rituals, one finds that the Olympic Spirits were mentioned, albeit briefly, in the grade of Practicus. At a certain point in the path of Resh, the Hegemon shows the candidate a diagram containing their sigils, saying:
Before you is the Tablet of the Olympic or Aerial Planetary Spirits with their Seals, Arathror of Saturn, Bethor of Jupiter, Phalegh of Mars, Och of the Sun, Hagith of Venus, Ophiel of Mercury and Phul of the Moon.
As far as I can make out, this constitutes the sole reference to the Olympic Spirits in the whole of the Golden Dawn. There are however certain conclusions we can legitimately infer, viz.: a Practicus would have been expected to know the identities and seals of the Olympic Spirits for his 3=8 exam; and that practical instruction would be forthcoming on how to work with them in the Inner Order (it never was).
The earliest explanation for the Olympic Spirits comes from the grimoire the Arbatel de magia veterum, which dates from 1575, where they are described thus:
They are called Olympick spirits, which do inhabit in the firmament, and in the stars of the firmament: and the office of these spirits is to declare Destinies, and to administer fatal Charms, so far forth as God pleaseth to permit them: for nothing, neither evil spirit nor evil Destiny, shall be able to hurt him who hath the most High for his refuge. If therefore any of the Olympick spirits shall teach or declare that which his star to which he is appointed portendeth, nevertheless he can bring forth nothing into action, unless he be permitted by the Divine power. It is God alone who giveth them power to effect it. Unto God the maker of all things, are obedient all things celestial, sublunary, and infernal. Therefore rest in this: Let God be thy guide in all things which thou undertakest, and all things shall attain to a happie and desired end; even as the history of the whole world testifieth and daily experience sheweth. There is peace to the godly: there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.
The same grimoire gives their names and sigils, as well as describing their specific powers. Moreover, these spirits are described as Governors or rulers of hierarchies of spirits underneath them, of provinces in the spiritual realm – and of ages in human history.
“So,” I hallucinate that I hear you ask, “what has all this got to do with the Golden Dawn?”
The following is my own personal theory. It is speculation, but please humour me at least until you get to the end of the article. It is that teachings regarding the Olympic Spirits were going to be given to Adepti in the higher grades of the second order, but – like a lot of things – these teachings were never written, owing to Mathers’ creative juices running out after his estrangement from Westcott. More specifically –
THE GOLDEN DAWN WAS GOING TO FIT THE OLYMPIC SPIRITS INTO AN ELABORATE HIERARCHY – AT THE HEAD OF THE ENOCHIAN SYSTEM!
In the GD, the first Enochian Magic taught – the four Watchtowers – is actually the last part that Dee and Kelley received. I believe that the original intention of the GD was to teach Enochian Magic to its Adepti in reverse order – the Watchtowers first, and the more advanced – which Dee had receive before the Watchtowers – only later. I have seen evidence in private collections, in the form of notebooks of Adepti dating from around 1916, which clearly show that post-schismatic members of the second order were certainly exploring the more advanced stuff, such as the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, along with their other Golden Dawn studies.
Thus the putative structure of GD Enochian Magic would have been something like this:
- The four Watchtowers, + the Tablet of Union;
- The thirty Aethyrs;
- The Tablet of Nalvage;
- The Tabula Bonorum Angelorum;
- The Holy Table;
- The Sigillum Dei Aemeth.
John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery, edited by Joseph H Peterson
However, we can actually take this further – because Dee was performing Angel Magic before he started receiving Enochian and proto-Enochian material. In fact, in the first of his Five Books of Mystery, Dee makes reference to the spirit OCH – who is the Olympic Spirit of the Sun – being the ruler of the then current age. Now the story goes that the couple who owned Dee’s manuscripts before Elias Ashmole got a hold of them lost half the material because their maid, not knowing what they were, used them to drain pies. I am willing to speculate that the lost material contained records of Dee’s magical operations before 1581, and that they would have contained details of Dee working from (amongst other grimoires), the Arbatel de magia veterum.
Thus, it makes sense to place the Olympic Spirits at the head of the Enochian system – a sort of Pre-Enochian or Ur-Enochian system, as it were – because as far as Dee would have been concerned, the Olympic Spirits set the whole context for all his subsequent Angel workings – which would make them very important primal forces indeed.