So there has been an article in the blogosphere on this subject by Nick Farrell already, but in my opinion, its description of what the GD owes to Freemasonry not go far enough. Here then is my own take on what concepts from Freemasonry have found their way into the Golden Dawn.
Each of the three degrees of Craft Masonry has its own “Lecture” which contains the traditional teaching of the degree. These are written as a Catechism i.e. question and answer format: the original intention being that they could be performed in Lodge as a ritual, if there was not any other degree work to be worked at any given meeting. Furthermore, before being advanced to a higher degree, each candidate was expected to learn the Degree Lecture, and undergo an examination in its contents before proceeding. Unlike the Golden Dawn, the examination was done in oral form in Lodge, in front of the other brethren.
The lectures of the degrees of Masonry can be found here.
Unfortunately, what has happened in modern Freemasonry is that the Degree Lectures are seldom printed with the ritual books, nor are they automatically given to each candidate after he has taken his degree. Furthermore, there is no volition on the part of the United Grand Lodge of England to oblige Lodges to do so. What is left of this traditional practice is that candidates are given a small set of questions to memorise, which in each case amounts to a mere fraction of the original Degree Lecture – without necessarily being made acquainted with the traditional teachings from which they are derived.
Thus, the inclusion of Knowledge Lectures in the Golden Dawn, far from being an Hermetic innovation, is actually an attempt by its founders to get back to the original essence of Freemasonry!
Spiritualisation of the Lodge Room Prior To The Ceremony
One Golden Dawn order used to require members to que[ue] up to enter the temple and give the handshake and whisper the password to the sentinel to get in – all forced, masonic and all un-necessary.
This is disingenuous on Farrell’s part to say the least, because he does not mention why the members were made to leave the Temple and wait outside in the first place.
I, myself, am aware of an order that did this – it was because the Hierophant was busy conducting an Inner Order Ritual to activate the god-forms of the Temple, in advance of the ceremony.
The details of this Inner Order Ritual are a confidential matter for that order, suffice to say that being an inner order ritual, it would have been inappropriate to perform it in front of members of the outer order. Now, think about this: you have a load of outer order members waiting to enter the sacred space of the temple. Do you make them enter in an appropriate manner, which forces them to think about this sacredness, and re-affirm their connection to the energies invoked at the most recent Equinox ceremony? Or do you just say “Right, in you come, you lot.” ?
But I digress.
The idea of spiritualising the ritual space in advance of the meeting is in fact an old Masonic tradition, and is still practiced in some Lodges in Scotland. The form this takes, however, does not consist of elaborate hermetic rituals, but more simply that the officer appointed to prepare the Lodge (the Tyler) offers prayer whilst doing so – specifically in the lighting of the lodge candles. The Tyler’s actions therefore are a form of Candle Magick to invoke Wisdom, Strength and Beauty into the Lodge room! One can therefore appreciate why the Golden Dawn might want to do this, but after a more Qabalistic fashion. I believe that some Lodges in England follow the Scottish practice or do something similar, or at least they did within living memory. Unfortunately, however, as with the Degree Lectures mentioned above, UGLE does not require individual lodges to do this, with the result that although it is traditional, it is not a common feature of modern Freemasonry.
In the context of discussing the grip, Nick says
Unlike the grade signs [the grip] has no inner use either because you don’t tend to shake hands with strange beings to test them…
I’m glad to learn that Grade Signs are a way to communicate with discarnate entities – as let’s face it, grade signs did not exist in the Grimoire Tradition. This means that the introduction of grade signs is a welcome innovation which the Golden Dawn made. Hmm, I wonder where the GD got that idea from…
People Who Only Turn Up For Their Degrees, Then Bugger off.
The sad fact is both Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn have had their portals darkened by people with entitlement issues. I’m talking about people who are willing to jump up the degree or grade ladder themselves, but lose interest when the focus of any given ceremony is not about them, but someone else. This is really contrary to the spirit of joining a magical order in the first place: the point of not being a Billy No-Mates self-initiate is that there is value in helping each other on the path of spiritual evolution, whether that be in the form of taking a formal office, or just by providing moral support to a fellow initiate.
The idea of clubbing together in a fraternal order to help one another is something the GD inherited from Freemasonry, but so too is the fact that there will be people who are unclubbable, who think “what’s in it for me?” Taken to the extreme, they depart as soon as they realise that the only real progression left open to them comes through service to others – again, a legacy from Freemasonry.
This by itself is unfortunate: but what becomes really irritating is that these same people then go on to think that they are now uniquely qualified to pass judgement on the order – whether it be Freemasonry or the Golden Dawn – when in fact they have the least experience of that which they profess to know.