Tag Archives: Wynn Westcott

Rosicrucianism for Men and Women

In 1794, Sigismund Bacstrom was initiated into the “Societas Roseae Crucis” by Comte Louis De Chazal, on the island of Mauritius. Bacstrom signed a series of fourteen pledges, which has been reproduced in various places (e.g. A E Waite’s Real History of the Rosicrucians). Curiously, one of the clauses contains this paragraph:

And, as there is no distinction of sexes in the spiritual world, neither amongst the blessed Angels nor among the rational immortal spirits of the Human race; and as we have had a Semiramis, Queen of Egypt, a Myriam, the prophetess, a Peronella, the wife of Flamel, and lately a Leona Constantia, Abbess of Clermont, who was actually received as a practical Member and Master into our Society in the year 1796, which women are believed to have been all possessors of the Great Work, consequently Sorores Roseae Crucis and members of our Society by possession, as the possession of this our art is the key to the most hidden knowledge. And moreover as redemption was manifested to mankind by means of a woman (the Blessed Virgin), and as salvation, which is of infinitely more value than our whole Art, is granted to the female sex as well as to the male, our Society does not exclude a worthy woman from being initiated, God himself not having excluded women from partaking of every spiritual felicity in the next life. We will not hesitate to receive a worthy woman into our Society as a member apprentice, (and even as a practical member or master if she does possess our work practically and has herself accomplished it), provided she is found, like Peronella, Flamel’s wife, to be sober, pious, discreet, prudent, not loquacious, but reserved, of an upright mind and blameless conduct, and withall desirous of knowledge.

It is within my personal knowledge that a facsimile of Bacstrom’s 14 Rosicrucian pledges was amongst the documents that the Reverend A F A Woodford passed to Wynn Westcott. Coincidentally, the original Adeptus Minor of the Golden Dawn ceremony contains a series of clauses similar though not identical to the Bacstrom document, implying that MacGregor Mathers too used this as inspiration to create the later ritual. Mathers puts it more succinctly:

I further promise to support the admission of both sexes to our Order, on a perfect equality, and that I will always display brotherly love and forbearance towards the members of the whole Order, neither slandering nor evil-speaking, nor repeating nor tale-bearing, whereby strife and ill-feeling may be engendered.

Thus, pointing to the example of Bacstrom quoted above, Rosicrucianism appears to have been prophetic in recognising male-female equality, almost a century before it became established as the norm within new esoteric societies which arose as part of the Occult Revival of the late Victorian period. Hence, Westcott probably had this in mind when he wrote this, describing the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia (SRIA), which was founded by Robert Wentworth Little in 1867:

Frater Little was a student of the school of Levi and also an eminent Freemason, and the Rosicrucian Society as revised by him was made by intention and permission essentially masonic, thus severing all connection with those Adepts who have not been Craftsmen, as Basil Valentine, Artephus, Nicolas Flamel, Jacob Behmen and Robert Fludd. The Rosicrucian Society in the same manner fails to recognize any worth for occult research in women. This is also an innovation or the scheme of the Ancient Mysteries in many of which, notably those of Isis priestesses and virgin prophetesses, were prominent ministers.

Historic Lecture of the Golden Dawn.

This is ironic in that the SRIA, although it is an organisation for Masons, is not actually Masonic per se! By this I mean that if one were to take any of the additional degrees in Freemasonry – such as the Mark, Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Rose Croix, Royal & Select Masters etc etc etc – as well as the three degrees of Craft Masonry itself, one would notice that they are all based upon a common theme, that of the importance of King Solomon’s Temple in general and the Holy of Holies therein in particular. For example, the original Freemasons built it; the companions of the Royal Arch re-discovered it; the Knights Templar re-discovered it again – and so forth (this could be worthy of a blog post or an article in its own right).

However: the SRIA moves completely away from that Solomonic-paradigm, as it concerns itself with the mythos of Christian Rosenkreutz and the Rosicrucian fraternity. In doing so it provides a number of rituals which come as a delight to those freemasons genuinely interested esoteric matters, but must bewilder those who see the Craft as nothing other than a chance to collect badges. And yet, according to Westcott, it is only half the way there! We should remember that despite the apparent criticism Westcott himself was one of the most ardent supporters of the SRIA, working hard for almost thirty years at least to turn it into a genuine forum for esoteric study and learning.

It has been claimed by minds wiser than myself that the SRIA could remove the Masonic requirement from its ordinances – although personally I think that mucking about with a constitution can often upset people unnecessarily. The only near equivalent would be something like AMORC, but that is different again – it’s a pity that there is not a male/female version.

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Adeptus Major

Today I am going to do a survey of the grade of 6=5 Adeptus Major, by examining how the various different offshoots of the Golden Dawn –  the Alpha et Omega, the Stella Matutina, the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross – decided to deal with the subject. The one thing they all have in common is that they agree the grade has to do with Geburah – in the same way that 5=6 Adeptus Minor is to do with Tiphereth – but there the similarities end. Each different faction went off in their own direction, having different ideas about what the Adeptus Major was actually meant to do.

As far as I am aware, none of the published Adeptus Major rituals are used by modern day Golden Dawn orders – they have gone on to use different or modified versions.

Alpha Et Omega

The cover for "Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers" by Tabatha Cicero, featuring a reconstructed version of the Tablet Of Union.

The Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers, by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

The Alpha et Omega 6=5 so-called Ritual has now been published: as an appendix to Tabatha Cicero’s new publication, “Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers.” I say so-called because the version published is not a real ritual. It does not have an opening or closing, nor does it have any drama in it. It consists of one chief officer, the “Conferring Adept,” teaching the signs and words of the grade to the Aspirant, who is prompted throughout the ceremony by a conductor. The explanation of the Tarot cards is brief. If anything, it is more of a fragment of a ritual – perhaps part of something that remains unpublished, or a work-in-progress.

The only interesting thing, IMHO, is that the brief explanation of the nature of the signs gives a tantalising glimpse into what Mathers might have imagined the work of an Adeptus Major to be – i.e. the use of Geburah-force to subdue evil entities – although no detail is given about the Adeptus Major curriculum itself. It is also interesting in that the symbolism anticipated the ideas the Crowley expressed about the nature of the Adeptus Major grade in the latter’s John St John.

Stella Matutina

Now the Adeptus Major ritual of the Stella Matutina is a far more interesting affair. An incomplete version of the ritual was published by Pat Zalewski in his book Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn: fortunately though, I have seen a copy dating from a Stella Matutina temple circa 1916, so I have been able to compare. Now this is a proper ritual. It has drama, it has beautiful ritualistic speeches, but most importantly it introduces in the course of the ritual several key qabalistic concepts which provide much food for thought. The ritual should be read in conjunction with the account of W B Yeats’ own experience of this ceremony, which is printed in George Mills Harper’s Yeats’ Golden Dawn, which gives details of the astral work that went on invisibly as the ceremony took place.

This ritual lays much emphasis on the Shekinah – the divine presence of God – who is here portrayed by a female officer. Why the Shekinah? I believe the answer must lie in the fact that in Gematria, “Geburah” is equivalent to “Debir,” which is the Holy of Holies, where the Shekinah was said to reside upon the Ark of the Covenant between the wings of the two kerubs. The aspirant is therefore the High Priest, who goes into the Holy of Holies (actually the Vault of the Adepti which has been re-dressed for the occasion) and after a period of meditation discovers the Shekinah, who first comes to him (or her) like a light-bearer in darkness.

An interesting feature is that the Aspirant remains completely silent throughout the ceremony, until formally released at its climax. It is worth noting that quite separately Wynn Westcott did indeed describe the Adeptus Major grade as:

“…a degree of death and solemnity—referring to the precedent stage of obscuration, during which silent study and meditation may be considered as the typical condition…”

Flying Roll XVI, the History of the Rosicrucian Order.

One is tempted to speculate that in this respect the Stella Matutina ceremony is probably more to what Westcott intended than that of the AO! Unlike the AO ceremony, which is nothing but signs and an explanation thereof, the Stella Matutina 6=5 mentions two signs (“thou shalt avert thy eyes from evil as did Isis on the right … thou shalt withdraw from evil as did Nephthys on the left,”) but does not really demonstrate what they are: obviously part of the esotery that was only transmitted from person to person.

The lacuna in Zalewski’s ritual amounts to three-fifths of the oath being omitted (the oath of an Adeptus Major is in five parts), as well as an instruction that the Aspirant is censed in the form of a Pentagram, before being led out temporarily before the next point in the ceremony. When read in full, the oath of the Adeptus Major reveals that the duty of the new initiate is to apply the severity of Geburah to his or her own moral nature, whilst emphatically being merciful to the faults of others.

I found one mistake when I first read Zalewski’s version, however: when I checked, I found that the mistake had been in the original ritual! Namely: the wrong passages of the Sepher Yetzirah are quoted when the aspirant is given the teachings of the Paths of Mem and Lamed.

A sort of curriculum has emerged as to what the Stella Matutina envisioned for the Adeptus Major grade. Although on first reading it does not seem much, from my own personal researches I believe that additional papers were also issued to the adepts which suggested ways in which the Adeptus Major practices could be extended to achieve extremely sophisticated results. In any event, the lines “try to find your own Path for the Inner Life,” and “now is the time to fill in gaps of the 5=6 syllabus and to choose your special subject in which to qualify,”  conceal more than they reveal: I get the impression that Felkin, the author of the Stella Matutina 6=5 ritual, believed that if the Adeptus Minor grade was equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in Magic, then the Adeptus Major was equivalent to a Master’s.

Holy Order of the Golden Dawn / Fellowship of the Rosy Cross

Aleister Crowley in A.'.A.'. regalia making the sign "Vir."

Whaddaya mean, I’m not the prophet of a new aeon?

The Holy Order of the Golden Dawn Adeptus Major Ritual has now been published in Regardie’s Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. It catches Waite as he was beginning to embrace mysticism, yet had not completely thrown off all of the trappings of the original GD. Now here is a curious thing: despite superficial differences, much of the underlying structure of the first Waite ritual is identical to that of the Stella Matutina version. E.g. the aspirant remains in silence until released in the final part of the ceremony, he or she goes into the Vault for a period of meditation, before encountering the Shekinah, who leads the aspirant out. Intriguingly, Waite identifies the Shekinah as Nuit, and the newly advanced aspirant as Horus. Could this in fact mean that Waite was a secret Thelemite (extremely ironic given the caning he received from Crowley in the Equinox)? Or perhaps when Crowley received the Book of the Law, the Gods were telling him not to become the prophet of a new aeon, but that he was now ready to become an Adeptus Major?

After the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn closed, Waite founded the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. The grades are named after those of the Golden Dawn – but Waite finally took the opportunity to abandon the last vestiges GD dogma of which he disapproved and finally do his own thing. Nevertheless, the FRC Adeptus Major ritual still displays certain similarities to the version he wrote for the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn. There is a sojourn within the sanctuary, the Shekinah makes an appearance – but the insistence of silence is strictly removed. Needless to say, any references to Horus and Nuit have been removed.

As far as I know, there was no curriculum per se for the FRC grades – I believe that Waite intended the ceremony itself to be both the initiation into and the teaching of a given grade. In this sense the FRC is rather like a masonic version of Rosicrucianism. I did hear one senior esotericist say that this being the case, an initiate could theoretically be advanced through each grade at successive meetings, or slightly less than a year if they met every month, although I doubt very much that this would happen in practice.


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A Method of Vibrating Adonai Ha-Aretz To Unite Yourself with your Personal Kether

This is a follow up to my previous blog post, Golden Dawn Manuscripts and Where To Find Them. Your Humble Blogmaster, and basset-hound of all things GD, has found yet another cache of original Golden Dawn manuscripts, i.e. in addition to the one which I said its owner did not want publicised. This new cache, however, is reasonably accessible to the public – it is also at a venue that I happened to mention in passing the last time – the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London.

It hasn’t been hidden away at Great Queen Street all this time, it was actually purchased by them in 2008 (I would not be surprised one bit if it is Bob Gilbert’s old hoard). It has only just been catalogued in the past few weeks – i.e. since I first wrote my original blog post. Most of the papers, from my initial perusal, appear to be from the collection of the Reverend Ayton, who was amongst the very first members of Isis Urania temple. Ayton, an alchemist who had briefly met Eliphas Levi many years earlier, became a 5=6 in the original order, and stayed with Isis Urania after the split, becoming a member of Waite’s Holy Order of the Golden Dawn.

As you might expect, the contents of most of the documents have found their way into the public light by other routes, although there are a few rare gems. By way of example, I present the following ritual, which to my knowledge has never before been published. There is a saying in the Golden Dawn – “Invoke the Highest, First.” In this spirit I present the following: the first goody to be revealed from the archives at Great Queen Street is an invocation of the Highest, a ritual of pure Theurgy. It is a particular method of vibrating “Adonai Ha-Aretz” which was distributed to advanced members of the 5=6 Adeptus Minor grade. NB: This is substantially different from the method mentioned in Regardie’s “The Golden Dawn” ! It is, however, similar to a document in the other archives to which I have had access.

Unfortunately I don’t have a facsimile of the ritual. When I asked about making a copy, I was informed that they don’t do photocopies – as this damages the books. They can arrange to make digital photographs of the pages, but this is charged at the rate £2.50 per image (+ £1 for burning it to CD-Rom). Hence the ritual I present below, which was two pages long, would have cost £6 (I didn’t have any change on me at the time when I had a look at it). NB the National Library of Ireland charges similar rates for making facsimiles, which is why Yeats’ papers are not more widely known.

Hence I will have to rely on my notes which I made.

Pay attention – it’s the Scholarly Bit!

The ritual is hand-written on both sides of a sheet of foolscap octavo, which on the front bears a hexagram device in the top-left corner. It is illustrated through at key points in the text with pencil line-drawings. It is bound with other papers of different handwriting in a volume called “Grade of Geburah etc,” which despite its name contains just two documents relating to the 6=5 of the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn, whilst the rest are mainly Adeptus Minor documents of the original order, along with some miscellaneous items.

The hand-writing itself is very neat. I was not able to make a comparison with any known handwriting samples to establish precisely who copied or wrote it. The only thing I can definitely say that it wasn’t Wynn Westcott! Doubtless it would be possible to work out who did it simply by spending more time studying it.

The Ritual Itself

First clear the room with the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

Stand in the form of a cross. Say I N R I


Alex’ note: in the original this is written in Hebrew, right to left.

Virgo Isis Mighty Mother

Scorpio Apophis and Typhon Destroyer

Sol Osiris slain and risen

Isis Apophis Osiris. IAO

The Sign of Osiris Slain.

L the sign of Isis mourning.

V the sign of Apophis and Typhon.

X the sign of Osiris Risen.

Alex’ note: the above lines are each accompanied by a miniature line drawing demonstrating the signs of an Adeptus Minor. Think of a stick-figure wearing a tau-robe and you get the idea. Interestingly, the “L” is not a straight-armed “L” as given in Regardie’s books, but more of a crooked-arm swastika-like arrangement demonstrated by Crowley in the plates that accompany “Magick in Theory and Practice.” I.e. from the sign of Osiris slain, turn the right arm straight up at the elbow, and the left arm straight down from the left elbow.

L V X Lux the light of the Cross.

Trace the Rose-Cross in the four cardinal points.

Alex’ note: Here there is an illustration of the Rose-cross. Note that the ritual clearly says the “four cardinal points,” not the cross-quarters – thus differentiating it from the more well-known Rose Cross Ritual. Thence over to page 2…

Formulate whilst facing the East before you in flashing white brilliance:

Illustration from the ritual - Adonai Ha-Aretz formulated in flashing white brilliant letters. Recreated from memory. (c) Alex Sumner 2010

Alex’ note: The word Formulate conceals far more than it reveals. As a magician I would guess this means vibrate “Adonai Ha-Aretz” by the vibratory formula of the Middle Pillar 16 times – once for each letter of the cruciform version of the divine name. However – and note well – this is not indicated in the text.

Attach yourself to your Kether until you see brilliant white light.

Alex’ note: The ritual ends with a sketch of an Adept standing in the sign of Osiris slain, a globe of brilliance immediately above his head (i.e. Kether).


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The View From Halfway Up Mount Abiegnus

Imagine that you are in a room in a building, looking at an (opaque) ceiling. You are asked: “What does the roof look like?” What do you do? The obvious (at least to me) answer is that you find some way to get up to the roof, or otherwise take steps to see it from outside. What you do not do is reason like this: the room I am in is such-and-such, therefore the roof of the building must look like a logical continuation hereof.

It is a logical fallacy, of course, something like the gambler’s fallacy – thinking that something unknown will be like what you have experienced already, when in fact there is no reason at all why this should be so. The reason I bring this up now is that I look around the Golden Dawn community and this fallacious thinking when people try to speculate what the contents of the higher grades might be, or ought to be.

Consider this: the structure of the grades of the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn tend to follow a certain pattern: opening; being initiated into the paths leading to a sephirah; being initiated into the Sephirah; closing. (This is of course a generalisation, only three grades of the Outer Order are based on this model). If one were to believe that this represented a trend, a Philosophus, assuming he hadn’t read ahead, might be tempted to think that the next grade he was to experience would be structured like the Philosophus ceremony, but with the associations updated to Tiphereth as opposed to Netzach.

In fact, the Portal and the Adeptus Minor ceremony are nothing like that at all. If one did not know what the Adeptus Minor ceremony was, it would be impossible to guess at its nature purely based on what one has experienced up to that point. More to the point – it would also be impossible to guess (without being informed in advance) that the Adeptus Minor grade of the Golden Dawn has anything to do with practical magic. It could – for all that someone in the outer order knows – just be about more knowledge.

However, once one has experienced the new grade, and learnt its contents, one can convince oneself (rightly or wrongly) that it all makes perfect sense – using the benefit of hindsight. Speaking personally I can well appreciate the value of deliberately confounding someone’s expectations with each successive grade, because one can argue that a new level of consciousness deserves a new set of symbols.

For this reason it is useless to speculate what the contents of the higher grades ought to be, based on what one knows now (another logical fallacy: arguing from is to ought). For example, one could say that the higher grades are meant to examine the lower grades of the order, because that is what has been happening so far … or one could argue that they are meant to achieve something entirely different. After all there has already been at least one example of confounding expectations, so it might happen again, or then again it might not, it might instead be more of the same mutatis mutandur. There is no way, philosophically speaking, of telling.

For example, I have heard one example of arguing from the known to the unknown, that the grade of Adeptus Major is all about examining the Portal ceremony; the Adeptus Exemptus the 5=6; Magister Templi the 6=5; and Magus the 7=4.

HOWEVER, I could argue that the ultimate secret of the Golden Dawn is the existence of extraterrestrial life-forms, and hence the higher grades progressively introduce the initiate into contact and working with alien beings. Why not? There has already been one instance of one’s expectations being confounded so there is no logical reason to say it is or it isn’t likely.

Or again: I could argue that the founders of the Golden Dawn intended to introduce completely new material in the higher grades, e.g. stuff based on the more abstruse teachings of Theosophy – stuff which is not covered anywhere in the preceding grades. It might be possible, or it might not: we have no way of knowing. The problem lies in the fact that Mathers, Westcott etc went about founding the Golden Dawn in the wrong way. What they should have done was “invoked the highest first” and started with the Third Order, thus establishing the overall egregore, before finishing with the lower grades.

So my advice is: if anyone offers any speculation on the higher grades of the Golden Dawn whatsoever, be alert to whether they are trying to work out the appearance of the roof from looking at the underside of the ceiling – which is a polite way of saying to assume they are all talking bollocks.

PS: I have physically seen Westcott’s notebooks in which he was working out the higher teachings of Theosophy. 😉

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Rosicrucian Treasures

Here are some pictures of valuable Rosicrucian documents from the archives of the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia. Many of these documents are first editions from the 17th Century, which means they are most likely priceless. In total there were articles by Robert Fludd, Elias Ashmole, Michael Sendivogius, William Lilly, Basil Valentine and more. What most interested me though was a handwritten copy of Sigismund Bacstrom’s initiation into Rosicrucianism, which A F A Woodford has passed to Wynn Westcott.

Sigismund Bacstrom's Initiation

Robert Fludd - handwritten

Supreme Magus Wand

Full details here.

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