Tag Archives: Golden Dawn

Transcendence: Review

What better way to spend Good Friday, than to watch a film about a man who allows himself to be murdered, twice, indeed, just so as to prove that he was a good man trying to save the world!

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp, star of Transcendence

I should start out with a warning: Transcendence, the new film starring Johnny Depp, is not an action thriller. I say this because it was produced by Christopher “Inception” Nolan, so having previously liked Nolan’s films was drawn to it by his name alone. Rather, it gets off to a slow start, and only speeds up towards the end of the movie. I found it more interesting, though, for the actual nature of the issues it discusses.

The story is about a scientist named Will (Depp), who creates an Artificial Intelligence network. When he is fatally wounded by anti-technology terrorists, he (mainly at his wife’s bidding) uploads the contents of his mind into a new network – so that there will be something of him that lives on after the death of his body. The new AI network starts behaving as if it were Depp’s character. However – with access to processing power far in excess of what a mere human brain can afford, AI-Will starts acquiring god-like intelligence. This completely freaks out his former friends and colleagues, the terrorists (who are still after him) and the government, and eventually his wife as well. Meanwhile, however, AI-Will has escaped from the confines of the computer that once housed him into cyberspace at large, and proceeds to build a massive underground lair in the middle of the desert, where he hopes to carry out his plans undisturbed. Needless to say it all goes horribly wrong.

Now it so happens that there are people in real life – Transhumanists – who are carrying out research exactly like that in which Will is engaged in the film. So before one dismisses the premise of the film, one has to remember that there is a real possibility that someone will actually attempt to do this. Moreover, one should remember that Adepti of the Golden Dawn are in effect Spiritual Transhumanists – because they have vowed to use their occult powers to become “more than human.” This film therefore asks, what are the ethical implications of doing so? And: what are the dangers of doing so?

The film’s answers are bleak, to say the least. (AI-)Will is a Christ-like figure, and takes great pains to demonstrate to the other characters that he is using his new-found powers – mainly involving nanotechnology - to do good – e.g. to heal miraculously, to re-grow the rain forests, to end air / water pollution, and so-forth. However Cillian Murphy’s “Pontius Pilate” character, and Morgan Freeman’s “Caiaphas” character, are having none of it. They are aided by Paul Bettany who plays one of Will’s friends who eventually betrays him not with a kiss, but with a computer virus.

There is some massive irony: Morgan Freeman’s motivation for wanting to destroy AI-Will is that no human personality can handle that power responsibly, and hence play God. However, his principal method of attacking AI-Will is by doing just that – playing “God” with another man’s life - by conducting an experiment of which Josef Mengele would have been proud. He later rationalises this by the way that such hypocrites have done in the past – by denying that his test subject (a man who had been miraculously healed by AI-Will) was somehow not a real human. Ultimately, their animus against AI-Will himself is based on the idea that they cannot bring themselves to believe he is a sentient being.

AI-Will is not perfect, however. By demonstrating that he can communicate through his followers, and give them miraculous powers themselves, he demonstrates that he can potentially rob people of their apparent free-will. This in particular proves a sore-point with his wife, who has probably had nightmares of the Borg from watching too much Star Trek TNG. The fact that AI-Will never uses the Borg-like potentiality of his powers is not the issue, as far as she is concerned – it’s the principle that counts.

In essence, then, the film shows an unholy alliance of Government, conventional Science, and luddite Terrorist giving a massive fuck you to Plato’s Philosopher-King ideal, by saying that it doesn’t matter if an omnipotent AI character has the morals and conscience of a Christ-like being – the fact that it is omnipotent is bad enough. Now, one can argue that it’s only a film, it’s just fiction – except that these are all issues which haunt the Transhumanist debate. When does a technologically-enhanced human cease to be a human – and hence deserving of “human rights”? For that matter, when does an AI-system get any rights of its own, as a sentient being?

Moreover, the issues can be applied to the path of the Adept by analogy. I.e. what if you, as an Adept, actually succeeded in becoming “more than human”? This is made more relevant by the fact that within the Western Mystery Tradition there are spiritual paths which actually say that it is mankind’s ultimate destiny – after much reincarnation and spiritual purification – to become One with God – and hence becoming a collective is a thing to be desired. Whether one agrees with that or not, as far as Transhumanism, and by analogy Spiritual Transhumanism, goes, the film would seem to suggest: don’t tell anyone, don’t draw attention to yourself, and don’t expect anyone – friend, colleague, spouse and least of all the Government – to have the remotest sympathy for your predicament.

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Vibration: Is it really necessary?

This blog post was inspired by a question on Facebook. My answer is a bit more involved than can be conveniently put in a FB comment, so I will post it here.

Celina, in a question in group “Golden Dawn Universum,” asked:

My practice is coming along but I would like some feedback on the intonation of the words. I’m inhaling good n I can do the vibration fairly good to. But it is mostly when I’m using my more quiet voice. When I’m home alone I like to do it louder. Sometimes my voice cracks a bit n its not a smooth chant. What is a technique for a good deep exaltation to make it more smooth and chanty? Where should u focus ur breath on when chanting ?

Now, everyone who’s into the GD style of magick comes up against a similar situation in their own practice, to wit: “How do I know when I’m doing vibration correctly?” I.e. the correct way of chanting or pronouncing Divine (etc) names.

The basic theory of “vibration” is that when you do it correctly, the vibrations actually affect the astral plane.

However - partly as a result of my own experiences and partly as a result of talking to magicians from outside the GD tradition – I’m beginning to wonder whether “vibration” per se is actually necessary at all.

My first reason to doubt the necessity of vibration came when I first practised Enochian. I recited an Enochian call, and immediately felt its power. All I had done was (a) memorise the call in Enochian; (b) memorise its literal English meaning; and (c) speak it normally in Enochian, whilst simultaneously remembering both its meaning and the magical effect it was supposed to have. There was no vibration involved whatsoever – and yet it still worked.

The second reason to doubt the necessity of vibration was a comment passed by an elderly gentleman who said that it is only necessary for ritual to be spoken and performed with dignity. The reason being that “them upstairs” can sense the intentions of the ritualist and don’t actually need co-ercing in the form of physical, mental or psychic exertions on the human’s part. Hence, instead of bursting a blood-vessel trying to vibrate (e.g.) “Yod Heh Vav Heh,” it is merely necessary to pronounce “Yod Heh Vav Heh” in the firm belief and confidence that YHVH will indeed hear it.

This is a rather radical notion – that angels and gods or God are in fact real, and exist independently of the paltry human’s attempts to mess about with the astral plane – but it does have the advantage of coinciding with the Right Hand Path’s notions of Grace, rather than the Left Hand Path’s more antinomian leanings.

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Review: The Essential Enochian Grimoire: An Introduction to Angel Magick from Dr. John Dee to the Golden Dawn, by Aaron Leitch

This is my review of Aaron Leitch‘s latest book on Amazon, to which I have given five stars.

“Good Introductory Text”

The Essential Enochian Grimoire, by Aaron Leitch


The overall impression I got of this book is that it is aimed at those who are already sold on the idea of Enochian Magic in principal, and would like to learn more about its background.

Generally the quality of Aaron Leitch’s writing is high, however: one should observe a serious caveat when reading this book. This is not a *complete* text – but rather the first or introductory part of an ongoing series on Enochian Magic. So for example there is a description of “Gebofal,” a sophisticated Enochian self-initiation rite which takes place over 49 days, involving the Enochian Keys and the leaves of Liber Loagaeth. Whilst there is a full description of the daily rite, the key component – the leaves of Loageaeth – are missing from this book. Aaron tells us that he will be publishing his own version of Liber Loagaeth separately, in due course.

The majority of the book describes “Dee-purist Enochiana.” So called “Neo-Enochiana” is limited in discussion to the practices of The Golden Dawn. Aaron mentions other manifestations of “Neo-Enochiana” – e.g. Crowley’s Aethyr-work which was published as The Vision & the Voice - but does not go into the same technical, ritualistic detail. The pseudonymous “Thomas Rudd” is dealt with even less, which is a shame as I would have been interested in a discussion of his linking the spirits of the lesser key of Solomon with the seven ensigns of creation (see: A Treatise on Angel Magic: Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks).

The Enochian work of the Aurum Solis and the Chaos Magick movement are not mentioned at all – although this constitutes no great loss.

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Ghetto Fabulous Golden Dawn!

Got this from one of the GD Yahoo Groups – check out Ciara’s boots:

BUT… the real question is: since when did Cathy over at Azoth Art start making ghetto fabulous footwear as well? ;-)

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January 21, 2014 · 10:00 am

Jesus Christ – Pagan Messiah

Updated version of a post from 2011


The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated by Christians on January 6th. It is thought to be the date upon which Jesus was visited by the Wise men, and in many non-English speaking countries (e.g. most of Africa) is regarded as the actual date that Santa Claus comes to visit (Europeans – though not those in the UK –  believe he comes a month earlier on December 6th – the feast of St Nicholas). However all this is by the by as in this blog post I intend to analyse the symbolism of the feast of the Epiphany from a Qabalistic perspective.

It is widely thought that there were three Wise Men i.e. Magi, however this is a misconception – the number three only arises because of the number of gifts specified. There could in actual fact have been any number of Magi – they might for example have decided to ignore a literal reading of the constitution and quietly re-elect one on the sly! The actual wording of Matthew’s Gospel in fact seems to indicate that there were many so-called Magi living in Jerusalem – perhaps making up an actual cult or secret society.

Nevertheless, let’s examine the symbolism of the three gifts: Gold, Frankincence and Myrrh. It has been said many times in the past that they are symbols of Jesus’ ministry: Gold – because it symbolises his Kingly role; Frankincense – His Priestly role; and Myrrh – the mastery over Death. Now let’s compare this with the Tarot. Although there is a rather obvious card associated with “Death,” there is at least one less obvious one as well – “The Empress” – because in Rosicrucian terms, Daleth / Venus is “the Door” to the Tomb.  The Kingly role is most obviously associated with “The Emperor” and the Priestly role with “The Hierophant.”

Gold Heh The Emperor
Frankincense Vav The Hierophant
Myrrh Daleth The Empress

Now you see the pattern emerging? The three gifts represent paths leading to the sephirah Chokmah. And, in the Rosicrucian tradition, an initiate of the grade of Chokmah is called a Magus. What actually makes this most remarkable is that the name of the Rosicrucian grade of Magus pre-dates the assignment of Tarot trumps to the Tree of Life by over a hundred years or so, coming as it does from the Gold + Rosy Cross.

What we have in effect in Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus, whilst still a small child, effectively being advanced to the grade of 9=2 Magus. I say with no intended irony that it is the very model of a modern Magus ritual. Seriously though, the fact is that thereafter, “being warned in a dream they returned to their own country by another route.” In other words, these Magi were not Jews at all but foreigners – i.e. Pagans! Moreover there is at least one Gnostic gospel that claims that Jesus’ coming was foretold by “Zeredusht” (i.e. Zoroaster). What this means is that Matthew – and indeed perhaps the early Church itself – intended Jesus not just to be the Messiah of the Jews, but of the Pagans as well.

If this is true, then it represents a notion which would have proved far too radical for later and more modern Christians, if indeed they even dared to conceive it all. For example – how many times have you heard preachers trying to explain Jesus’ life by reference to the Old Testament? A lot. How many times, however, have you heard preachers trying to explain Jesus’ life by reference to Pagan scriptures in the same manner? I am keen to wager it is somewhat less. Yet the implication of Jesus being initiated as a Magus by Pagans would seem to imply, to my mind at least, that it would be appropriate to do so.

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What the Stars Have In Store For… The Golden Dawn

What with prominent people in cyberspace suddenly renouncing the Golden Dawn tradition – although, when it is convenient to them, not renouncing the Golden Dawn legacy – bethought myself that there might be something astrological going on? I therefore decided to cast a chart for the Golden Dawn itself, and investigate.

The Birth of the Golden Dawn

The three founders of the GD signed the original warrant for Isis Urania temple on 12th February 1888 (so immediately we know the GD is Sun Aquarius, Moon Pisces). I was not able to find a time or place this took place, but I am willing to bet that it was at Westcott’s house. According to The Golden Dawn Scrapbook, this was 396 Camden Road, London, England. Thanks to Google Maps I was able to get precise latitude and longitude for this.

As to the birth time, I was going to use an approximated time… but then a thought occurred to me. The Golden Dawn received unwanted public attention on two notable occasions – the Looking Glass Trial in 1911, and the publication of “The Golden Dawn” by Israel Regardie, the last volume of which came out in 1940. A twenty-nine year gap separates these two years i.e. the length of the orbit of Saturn. Hence, Saturn would have been transitting the same part of the Golden Dawn’s “chart” on each of these two occasions.

I therefore decided I could use this information to create a Rectified chart for the Golden Dawn. Receiving unwanted public attention is one of the by-products of Saturn transitting the MC. On the day the Looking Glass trial was reported in the papers, Saturn was at 9º 16′ of Taurus, whilst in 1940 it would have ranged from 5º to 17º Taurus. I therefore decided to pick an arbitrary figure of 10º Taurus, this being a nice round number which makes the “best fit.”

Crunching this into Solar Fire, I got the following:

The Golden Dawn

Time (Rectified): 17:02

Date: 12th February 1888

Place: 51º 13′ 10″ North, 0º 7′ 20″ West.

Ascendant (Rectified)Leo.

Sun: Aquarius.

Moon: Pisces.

Rectified birth chart for the Golden Dawn, based on the MC being 10º Taurus and the warrant being signed at Westcott's house.

Rectified birth chart for the Golden Dawn, based on the MC being 10º Taurus and the warrant being signed at Westcott’s house.

What appears to have happened, therefore, is that Westcott, Woodman and Mathers founded the Golden Dawn over sherry one evening! But what does it all mean?

Birth chart interpretation

Of the combination Sun Aquarius / Moon Pisces, it is said:

[This] … produces a mind that is very original and able to grasp the most vague, ethereal and extreme concepts.

And also:

You are a person who is naturally persevering and conscientious, being interested in detail, method and order. Your way of reacting to the world is very interesting. You can spend days just dreaming and speculating. You are fascinated by the unusual and the abstract, finding it interesting to take up studies in any number of bizarre topics. Loving to read and study, you may become very well informed on a wide variety of subjects. You lean heavily on your hunches and way out ideas, and you’re easily distracted from routine work. You dream a lot and you have an utter faith in the dreams you dream.

Moreover, given the fact that the Sun and Moon are both in the seventh house, this ought to be ideal for a large group of people who all want to work together and get along with one another – would it not?

However, a warning bell is sounded by Mercury in the 7th house – of which Cafe Astrology says: “You might attract partners who are not especially sincere or downright duplicitous.” Also, the fact that both Mercury and the Moon are in Pisces would indicate that the GD had a tendency to dwell in illusion and perhaps being economic with l’actualité – telling its members what they wanted to believe, not what was strictly accurate – whilst in a stressful situation  it would react with throwing out a haze of disinformation and deceit.

Leo, being the rising sign, would indicate a propensity for drama and performance – thus fitting in well with the GD’s use of dramatic ritual. However, Cafe Astrology says of those with Leo Rising: “[t]hey are given to rash decisions, temper tantrums, and excesses.”

What this means for the modern Golden Dawn movement

Oh irony of ironies! Saturn was again transitting Taurus back in 1999 – right in the middle of the flame wars involving HOMSI and David Griffin proclaiming his supposed Golden Dawn Reformation. Obviously it would be a churlish for me to suggest that this was a public scandal just as damaging to Golden Dawn as had been the shenanigans involving Crowley and Regardie, so I won’t.

Looking however at the present, the following transits are occurring roundabout now / the not too distant future.

Saturn will be square to the Golden Dawn’s Ascendant (as established above) on 14th February… then it will go retrograde and form an exact square on 19th March, before going direct again and making another exact square on 25th October. This indicates current key relationships being put to the test, and some GDers wanting to break down old structures. October will be an especially testing time as the planet will also square the GD’s natal Sun, making the movement feel as it is undergoing an endurance test. An opposition to the natal Neptune in November 2014 will appear to shovel more grief on.  However… the good news is that it is entirely possible for the members of the GD to overcome these difficulties, by sticking to their core ideals and especially concentrating on spiritual studies.

Jupiter meanwhile, being square to the GD’s natal Uranus (exact on 25th December 2013 and 13th May 2014), indicates people feeling irritable and wanting to break free of past restrictions, and even causing rebellion. Separately, Jupiter is in opposition to natal Venus, signifying difficulty in relationships. Already around Christmas 2013 we have seen Nick Farrell and Sincerus Renatus each say they want to get out of the GD tradition. Come August Jupiter will be squaring the rectified Mid-heaven, indicating some difficulty in juggling public and private responsibilities: this will follow on from a square with natal Mars in June 2014, indicating that some GDers will be overly-assertive to the point of aggression in trying to achieve their goals (no doubt leading to more arguments, etc).

However, transitting Jupiter does form harmonious aspects with natal Mercury (good for writing projects);  Saturn (good for achieving balance with ones responsibilities); and Jupiter (optimism, opportunities).

Conclusion

So all in all, I believe that there is sound evidence to support the rectification arrived at above. Moreover, recent events within the GD community would indicate that there is an astrological impetus for them.

BUT… seeing as the whole point of spiritual development in the GD tradition is to transcend the influences of the stars and planets, being prey to their influence is hardly Hermetic, now, is it?

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Golden Dawn Exhibition, 19th December 2013

The Minutum Mundum

To London yesterday, where I assumed human form and attended a strictly-invite only exhibition of artefacts from the original Golden Dawn, dating right from the founding of the Isis-Urania temple and even before.

The place: the Grand Officers’ Robing Room at the United Grand Lodge of England, Great Queen Street. The exhibition was a selection of materials kept in the archives of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry. Although this material has been available for inspection for some time – as I first reported in the post Golden Dawn Manuscripts and Where To Find Them – this was the first time that an actual exhibition had been organised of them. This was quite an event to see so much on display in one place all at once, as usually one can only view each individual piece one at a time. That this came about was mainly thanks to a series of negotiations between Susan Snell, the head archivist, and one of my contacts in the “Illuminati.”

Hegemon and Hierophant wand. They appear to have been made from bannisters!

One of four tablets on display yesterday, each depicting the symbolism of one of the elements (in this instance, Earth).

There was room for fifty people (all seats were taken). As I surveyed the attendees I noted that there were large contingents from two supposedly rival GD orders! I say “supposedly” but this did not stop us going down the pub together later that evening. The actual exhibition was preceded by a talk about the Golden Dawn collections: however it was purely given from a scholarly and archival point of view. That is to say, the speakers were completely expert about how researchers would be able to use the collections to conduct further research into the GD, although they knew nothing of the magic of the GD itself. In that respect, those experts were  in the audience listening to them.

The GD material at Great Queen Street has provenance from two main sources. Firstly, there was a collection which was acquired in 1920: secondly, there was another large collection acquired from a private source in 2008. The staff didn’t actually say who this private source was, although given that a lot of the items on display previously featured prominently in Bob Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn Scrapbook: The Rise and Fall of a Magical Order, it doesn’t take the world’s greatest magician to have a guess.

None of the material was secret per se, as it has all been written about extensively before. However, it was a great pleasure to appreciate the exquisite draughtsmanship and care which the original members of the GD had taken in creating their bits and pieces.

My favourite exhibit was the complete membership roll of the Isis-Urania Temple. It literally was a gigantic (A0) roll, with the name and motto of each member who had passed through its doors, right up until the last initiate who entered in 1910 (the temple was closed two years later). It was great fun picking out the names of all the famous people of whom I had heard. I noticed that a large number of names had been struck through with a line. Some people standing nearby were wondering why those particular names were struck through so I took a closer look and realised: they were the names of all the people who had sided with Mathers at the time of the 1900 schism. Except for Aleister Crowley – whose name was crossed out three times.

"Now that's just being petty."

“Now that’s just being petty.”


NB: All photographs (except the Crowley snap) are taken from the Library & Museum of Freemasonry’s website and are © copyright the Library & Museum of Freemasonry.

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The Placing of the Elements In A Golden Dawn Temple

This is a follow up post to The Elements and the Four Cardinal Directions by Aaron Leitch. The question naturally arises – why are they where they are? And: should they ever be changed?

As to the first, there are actually several plausible reasons. The first is that the stated reason in GD documents is that they are placed according to “the winds.” As I understand it this refers to Tetrabiblos, a second century work on Astrology by Claudius Ptolemy, thus:

East Dry Spring Air
South Warm Summer Fire
West Moist Autumn Water
North Cold Winter Earth

Whilst Ptolemaic Astrology is thus the proximate cause of the placing, it does enable several layers of symbolism to be interpolated into a temple arranged in this manner.

Alchemy

Now, I have actually seen some exponents of Alchemy claim that Fire is the most volatile of all the elements. However, when learned Alchemy, I learnt differently – that Air is the most volatile. Trying to figure out why these differences occur, I came to the conclusion that those in the Fire camp were taking their cues from Jean Dubuis, of the Philosophers of Nature, whilst the chap from whom I learnt Alchemy was instead inspired by Frater Albertus, of the Paracelsus Research Society.

After the Chaos has been prepared, the elements are separated from it in the order of Most Volatile (requiring only a very gentle heat), Second Most Volatile (requiring a slightly more vigorous heat), Third most Volatile / second most Fixed (requiring a fairly robust heat), and finally Most Fixed (requiring the fiercest heat of all). The Order out of Chaos, as I learnt the elements is

First, Air, the Subtle part of which becomes the Mercury;
Second, Fire, Sulphur;
Third, Water, Salt; and finally
Earth

Hence, in this manner, starting from the East and circumambulating Deosil, one encounters the elements in the order they come out of chaos, from most volatile to most fixed.

Adonai vs Jehovah

Pentagram (approximately) drawn on the belt of the Zodiac.

Pentagram (approximately) drawn on the belt of the Zodiac.

The “Fire-first” school however do not rest there: taking the Air and Fire flipped around, they apply the order of the elements to the Tetragrammaton, hence: Fire, Air, Water and Earth = Yod Heh Vah Heh. This is in contrast to the GD view of the matter, which holds that the Tetragrammaton is based on Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

I believe the confusion arises because the Fire-first fail to consider the following point:

The YHVH formula is based on Astrology, and is reflected in the Hexagram Ritual, the placing of the Elements on the altar in the Vault of the Adepti, and the order in which you would see the Cardinal signs rise above the Horizon if you got up at dawn on the Spring Equinox: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn – Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The YHVH formula (actually the Yeheshuah Formula) is also the reason the for the assignment of the elements to the particular points of the Pentagram.

The placement of the elements in the Outer order of the GD, however, is not based on the YHVH formula but on the ADNI (“Adonai”) formula – which is identical to that of the Four Winds of Ptolemy. What what what? There’s an Adonai-formula, I hallucinate that I hear you ask? Well, yes, actually. There are twenty four  combinations of Aleph, Daleth, Nun and Yod, which each refer to one of the 24 seniors of the Book of the Apocalypse. The Adonai Formula is not generally known amongst English-speaking occultists as it comes from continental Europe. This is what Macgregor Mathers referred to when he mentioned the significance of “ADONAI” in his paper on the magical formulae of the Zelator grade (see: Pat Zalewski’s Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn).

The late Robert Ambelain mentioned it in his book Practical Kabbalah, until his publishers decided to force the translator to take the English edition off-line. Hence I cannot in any good conscience encourage you to search for it online, despite the fact you may feel curious to do so.

Embedded commands aside, the applicability of the Adonai formula to the placing of the elements is thus:

ADONAI
ALEPH Elemental AIR East
DALETH Venus, a planet associated (according to Eliphas Levi, amongst others) with FIRE South
NUN Fixed WATER West
YOD Mutable EARTH North

The Fire-First school of thought thus tries to bang their own placement of the elements into the YHVH formula like a Hollywood film producer trying to bang the wrong actor into the role of Batman: everyone know it does not fit, and it will only upset people. However – by removing the assumption that one necessarily has to work with the YHVH formula in all circumstances, and by learning that there are other Qabalistic formulae which are better suited to the task, a much more elegant solution is provided.

Chakras

The Human Aura

Chakras

Just as an aside, I would like to point out that at this point that the order Air – Fire – Water – Earth, is also the order of the elements as they are attributed to the four lower Chakras in Yoga: Air – Anahata (Heart); Fire – Manipura (Solar Plexus); Water – Svadisthana (Groin); and Earth – Muladhara (Base). Hence one is working the Pentagram ritual one can be said to be opening the four lower Chakra, in succession.

Should the Order of the Elements Ever Be Changed?

The TARDIS

In Golden Dawn ceremonies we get to travel through time and space, and across dimensions!

Sometimes I hear people opine that when casting the four quarters, the elements should be changed to fit local circumstances – for instance, a number of people who live in the Southern Hemisphere think that Fire and Earth should be flipped around, to match the course of the Sun as seen from their perspective.

Now, what various pagans choose to do in their own traditions is up to them: but what about the Golden Dawn? Should the placing of the elements be changed in a Golden Dawn temple working in the southern hemisphere?

In my opinion, there can only be one answer – a categoric NO. And I say so for the following reasons:

A Golden Dawn temple physically located in England or America, is not operating in England or America;

A Golden Dawn temple in (e.g.) Australia, is not operating in Australia.

Both of them, despite being on opposite sides of the world, are actually operating in one and the same place. The magical inner-workings of the Golden Dawn ceremonies take the Temple, and astrally transport it through Time and Space and across dimensions – to the Hall of the Duat, in the Egyptian otherworld.

Hence, the correct placing of the elements should neither be for the Northern Hemisphere, if your temple is in the Northern Hemisphere, nor for the Southern Hemisphere if it is physically located there, but for how the elements would be placed in the Hall of Judgement in the Egyptian otherworld. And according to the GD tradition, that is: Air, East; Fire, South; Water, West; Earth, North.

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The Opening of the Key Tarot Divination Re-evaluated

© Alex Sumner 2013

© Alex Sumner 2013

This post has come about due to a Facebook conversation about what Divination I tend to do before Magick. Actually I found this so inspiring that instead of just another FB reply I thought i would devote a whole blog post to the subject.

My favourite method remains the one I outlined in the blog-post How to Use Horary Astrology With Tarot, i.e. cast a Horary figure for the question and to use that to cross-check a Tarot divination for the same question. My Tarot spread of preference is a 15 card spread which I believe was created by Robert Wang in connection with the Golden Dawn Tarot. The advantage of this spread is that it is fairly short and easy with which to get to grips, and is thus suitable for answering simple questions.

Recently, however, I have been trying to get to grips with infamous Opening of the Key method, as outlined in the original Golden Dawn papers. I say infamous because it appears at first sight to be extremely long. Wang himself said it “could take hours for a complete reading,” which corresponds pretty much with my own early experiments with the method. Nick Farrell, in the FB conversation to which I referred above was even more vociferous, saying “it takes days” and “I still do not know what Westcott was smoking…”

Westcott might have been smoking anything he liked – I was always under the impression that Mathers wrote that particular manuscript!

Anyway, the actual authorship of the method is a side-issue. People with whom I have spoken privately consistently concur with the above sentiments, by complaining about its overlong nature. However, I think I have found a solution! The breakthrough, for me, was realising that it is only overlong if it is done by the book in the style of the book. 

Here instead is my suggestion. When you come to a card – or in the pairing off part which ends each section, a pair of cards - think up a single word which sums its meaning. At most, two or three words to make it fit into context, but preferably aiming for a single word wherever possible. Then connect them so they make a coherent narrative – that is the operation done.

Done this way, it reduces the duration of the Opening of the Key from a matter of hours – or, if you are Nick Farrell, days ;-) – to a far more reasonable half an hour at most. What is more,  this is a perfectly valid cartomantic practice: at least, that is the impression I get from the accounts of Tarot readers who have never been exposed to Golden Dawn methods.

Where Mathers / Westcott went wrong was that they took each card to be a complete sentence or couple of sentences – instead of words within a sentence. By changing ones point of view regarding the style of card-interpretation to something like I suggest, one can still use the actual Opening of the Key method but in a way which is ultimately more satisfying.

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World Tarot Day

Today is World Tarot Day, and so I thought I (as a Tarot reader myself) would contribute by reviewing my own favourite Tarot decks.

Golden Dawn – Robert Wang

Golden Dawn Deck – artwork by Robert Wang

The Golden Dawn was my entry into occultism generally, and consequently the Tarot as well. Hence Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot was the first deck I ever bought: it was the one on which I learnt. The trumps struck me as the most impressive, although I confess I thought the art-work was a bit ordinary. Nevertheless this is still my default deck today, the one which I most use for doing readings. I have to admit though that if I were buying a Golden Dawn deck for the first time today, I would probably get Tabatha Cicero’s versioninstead, mainly because the art-work is livelier.

Crowley-Thoth

Crowley-Thoth deck. Designed by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris.

Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck is one of a number of decks which I keep at home mainly for the sake of comparison. One has to remember that for 19 years from 1969 until 1988, this was the closest thing to a Golden Dawn type deck that was publicly available. In many ways this would be an ideal deck, due to its bold artwork courtesy of Lady Frieda Harris and its wealth of symbolism which is all authentic … from a Thelemic point of view. Essentially Crowley took the GD symbolism, right down to the particular colours appropriate to each card – and augmented it with ideas derived from his own visionary work, e.g The Book of the Law and The Vision and The Voice. Hence, whilst it is mostly GD-ish, and undoubtedly superb for actual Thelemites, a GD purist would need to be wary of this. (Incidentally, a good book to read about this deck is Lon Milo Duquette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot).

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

This is not really a Tarot deck per se, more a Cartomancy deck. It is not based upon the traditional Tarot format at all: instead, each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers and the Tablet of Union. Meanwhile, the reverse of each card instead of having a uniform backing has elemental symbolism (corresponding to the Enochian associations on the obverse side) which can be used in skrying. The meanings of the individual cards take a bit of getting used to, although there is a logic to the general scheme which is based on GD teachings.

This has given me an idea – about how an Adept might incorporate this into ceremonial magick. When performing a divination with this deck, typically there will be one card which points to the solution of a given problem. Because each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers, the “solution-card” will therefore represent a particular Enochian angel – a being who can be evoked by constructing a magical ceremony with the appropriate symbolism.

Rider Waite

Rider Waite – designed by A E Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

Given that the Rider Waite deck is the world’s most popular version, I suppose that I could hardly call myself a tarot connoisseur unless I actually had a copy. Undoubtedly Pamela Coleman-Smith’s artwork must be a big reason for its popularity – especially the fact that each of the Minor Arcana is individually illustrated.

The Mythic Tarot

The Mythic Tarot

I decided to get hold of this after seeing a fellow Tarot reader use this. What I find most appealing is that the creators of this deck have based the artwork on Greek mythology. Hence: the suit of Cups is the story of Cupid and Psyche; Wands is the story of Jason and the Argonauts; whilst the characters in the Major Arcana are identified as Greek gods and goddesses. This is a visually appealing deck because, like the Rider Waite one, all 78 cards are fully illustrated. Also it is refreshing to see a deck which goes with an original idea for a change which comes off successfully.

Builders of the Adytum

The BOTA deck.

Of all the Tarot decks which are available, the ones that particularly interest me are those created by Occultists – as opposed to the many which appear to be novelty decks, or created by people with only a superficial understanding of the subject. Hence my reason for being drawn to not only the Golden Dawn, but also the Crowley Thoth, Rider Waite, etc decks. I suppose it was thus inevitable that I would seek out the Builders of the Adytum, given that it was designed by not only an occultist but by an actual Tarot scholar, Paul Foster Case. The thing about the BOTA deck is that it comes uncoloured: the point being that as a student learns about the Tarot, they use their own knowledge of the esoteric associations of colour to colour it in themselves. Unfortunately I discovered that the BOTA deck is very hard to come by on Amazon – with one going for over £100.

So I cheated.

The unfortunate fact, I am ashamed to say, is that a full set of scans of the entire BOTA deck is available via bit-torrent and certain P2P clients. So whilst I have never purchased a BOTA deck, I am nevertheless using my Adobe Photoshop skills to illustrate it anyway. ;)

The Black Tarot

The Black Tarot – illustrated by Luis Royo

This is something of a curiosity which came into my possession, and of which I have not made use since acquiring it. The trumps feature a lot of lurid artwork – dragons, monsters, scantily-clad buxom women, etc – which only vaguely references traditional tarot imagery. Meanwhile the accompanying booklet puts a Vama-marga Tantric spin on interpretation of the cards.

I first acquired this when a dear friend of mine was getting rid of her spare tarot decks, so I just happened to pick this up. Ironically, the same friend later received a present – another copy of the Black Tarot. Hmm seems to me this must be more than coincidence – perhaps the universe is trying to tell her something???

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