Friday, September 16, 2022



By Frater YShY 

There are lots of published grimoires and books on magic today, more than ever at any time in human history. Many people believe that all they need to do to learn magic is to read these books and figure it out for themselves. They don't believe they need anyone else to work with or to teach them, least of all by joining an Order. This is simply not the case. So, why would an occultist need to join a Golden Dawn Order? The truth is that we learn the best by having an organized approach to learning, and a GD teacher is going to follow the regular curriculum, and hopefully they will be accommodating to the new members' questions. A good teacher will even be able to help the student fill some gaps in their knowledge. There aren't many academic courses taught on the occult, although this is changing. The occult may seem like something a new reader can figure out on their own, but I can guarantee they will not get very far without a teacher. For an autodidact to put together their own curriculum isn't rare. The problem with this is that they usually don't know the right material to research, and if they do get their hands on the right material, they won't know the right questions to ask. Someone who is self-taught can easily waste a few years struggling with the material, years that could have been saved if they had worked a basic syllabus from a reputable source and a proper teacher. Even more amusing is when a new occultist starts their own Order. It can be done, but usually it is a case of the blind leading the blind. In certain rare cases an individual will succeed in starting a group, but it usually fizzles out in a couple years due to lack of direction. The truth is that someone must already be an Adept in magic before they can train others. Right?

Now some students may claim that working alone is their learning style, and perhaps they are right. But, not seeking advice when starting a journey of this magnitude just smacks of a tender ego on the part of the student. Good Orders provide the best generalized education and experience for a new student to learn from. Any Neophyte who spends a few years applying themselves in an Order will gain the occult version of a liberal arts degree. Many of us won't learn just through reading books, but by doing. But joining an Order is more than just servicing the beginner's educational preference. Magic is a practice, and it is only learned by practicing it. A teacher can cut away confusion in a short time, sometimes saving years of frustration for the student. Having like-minded people to work with can also produce magical results that we might not have been able to accomplish by working alone. There is also a social side to occultism, and many occultists feel disconnected from regular society due to their interests. Having an occult or magical community around us can make a huge difference when we have questions, are looking for magical support, or seeking fellowship and fraternity. 

Now there is a benefit to working alone. Sometimes an Adept needs to cloister themselves for various magical workings, especially the solitary theurgic practices. All of this is way above the grade level of an actual beginner. For some reason people confuse what we do later in our career with what we need to do as a beginner. For example, the requisite knowledge in the Outer Order includes basic practices such as the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, how to make Holy Water, how to speak with intention, how to conduct yourself in a ceremony, and in some temples the preliminary instructions on how to chant or vibrate the holy names of G-d. Meanwhile the Adept has a number of private practices they may wish to do, for example, the Lesser Key of Solomon, aspects of the Heptameron, the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and other solitary theurgic practices. However, even an Adept will call upon other magicians for assistance, whether in Grimoire practice, such as the Greater Key of Solomon, or in the regular workings of a temple of the mysteries. But, new students can easily be romanced away from focussing on basic learning by tales of how everything important that a magician does should be done alone, and that being part of a group is somehow less spiritual than doing solo work, that they are already advanced without needing to try, etc, etc. I don't know if it is an inflated ego that makes beginners think that they don't need anyone else to learn from, or if it is bad advice they are receiving from other magicians, but there is a real disconnect here. The reality of most beginners is that they jump in head first without knowing much about the practice. They should be spending years learning, practicing and enjoying magic before they decide to tackle Adept apotheosis-level magic. A beginner needs to realize that a real Adept is really just someone who has mastered the basics. After they reach this higher level, the Adept continues practicing the same basics each day anyways. When they mature into a mature Adept, they may decide to go back to the beginning of it all and start to teach others. 

There are prominent voices in the magical community that warn new students against joining Orders. They recommend doing everything as a solitary. Perhaps they had a bad experience in an Order, and are genuinely trying to help new students by warning them away from repeating their own mistakes. This is perfectly understandable, as that was their experience. However, not all groups are going to be bad, there are good and not-so-good Orders. It is important to do your research on a group before joining it. Check their reputation from more than one source before leaping into membership. In my experience, the strongest opponents of Orders seem to have forgotten that they first learned the basics from a teacher or an Order. They don't recognize the real value their teacher or Order provided them with when they needed some guidance.


There are also so-called Orders that do not offer any classes or education in magic. In this regard the nay-sayers against Orders are right to warn people away from them. These fringe Orders try to copy the model of Freemasonry, which is a good Order, but they fail to get it right. 

Now Freemasonry isn't an occult organization, but it is regularly used by other occult groups as a filter to find good candidates. An example of a reputable occult Order that uses Freemasonry like this is the SRIA, which requires you to already be a Master Mason before you may join it. SRIA is very clear what it is, and is not. It is primarily a research body, everyone does papers to go up grades. There are grade ceremonies, and the practical work is on your own time.

So these fringe organizations are partly designed as filter Orders for something else. Some of these modern Gnostic groups and churches set-up themselves up somewhat like Freemasonry, and are used to attract members for their internal organizations. Becoming a congregant in these types of churches are usually a good place to make friends. However, their plan is for the congregants to continue with lay membership, get them to apply for a basic Order, start paying dues or higher dues, apply to go up in degrees, get them to apply to become part of the priesthood, etc. However, they still haven't learned any magic. Sooner or later they find out that they might have to join yet another organization inside the first one that will finally teach them some magic. To be fair, many years can be spent going down the rabbit hole of occult societies' degrees and grades without making much spiritual progress, and without learning the very first thing one came for - which is to learn magic. Before joining anything, it is important to ask if there is any education and training offered, at which point in the system are certain things taught, how long the average initiate spends in each grade, and how long the courses will take them to get to an intermediate or advanced level. I have often seen people looking for Golden Dawn, but accidentally or haphazardly join something else be cause it has a Lodge or temple closer by. Unfortunately some of these "options" aren't really options at all, because they are antithetical to the student's original goals. We can't rely on these organizations to be honest with their applicants. An ethical organization would redirect their applicants to the right tradition that fits their needs. But, some of these groups are scrounging around for new members, and they will take whoever they can get. Again, beginner's don't know what to do with themselves, what to read it what to ask about, so joining the wrong tradition or Order actually happens quite frequently. Asking the questions above will help the student to figure out on their own if the group really is what they are looking for.


I did want to add a few more points in regards to those of us who have joined an Order, but had a difficult time with the people in it, or were disappointed with the education or even the lack of education they received. 

It's natural that there will be personality clashes, there's not much one can do about that, other than try to be diplomatic. Some people are good at diplomacy, and some are not. It helps to remember that diplomacy is not just how we present ourselves, it can also be the patience we show when others are not being diplomatic! Luckily for most people, diplomacy can be learned over time.

Occultists are by nature eccentric, and at times we can be difficult to work with. One factor that adds to disagreements is the sheer amount of time we spend together. After a while each other's little quirks can grow to become annoying. Compare this to the time we spend with our own families. Some people see their extended family often, but most of us don't see those other family members that often, unfortunately by choice. Compare this to a fraternity that meets once or twice a month. Sometimes a temple will offer classes, so if we include those nights, some temples get together as much as once or twice a week. This amounts to a lot of time spent with each other. Some see their temple members more often than "date night" with their significant other, which can cause trouble at home too. With so much time being spent together in the temple, it's no wonder that there can be disagreements between people. It's quite easy to get emotional and mix up the difference between the fraternity we belong to and our own family dynamics from childhood. This psychological projection not something that we are usually aware of, and like many of life's lessons, it first comes up subconsciously. For those of us who grew up in a nice family, projection can be a good thing, but for many of us with poor or difficult upbringings, it isn't necessarily such a good thing. How our behaviour affects others is something we all need to watch for, and when we are acting from a difficult place within ourselves, it might be us and not the other person that is causing the trouble in the group! 

Another factor that can cause difficulties in a temple is how important the work can become to each of us. At first this might seem like a good thing, and it is, but it can also cause issues between people. Having strong feelings about how the temple should function, whether that is financially or in regards to how the ceremonies should be presented can bring up all sorts of issues between people. Just remember, if people are speaking up about their concerns, it means they care. The problem arises when others don't listen to each other, or don't have good boundaries around what is appropriate. All we can really do is try to control ourselves, and avoid the behavior we find so abhorrent in others. In a group we soon learn that when we take office, we each have a different style of presenting our parts. Trying to control how another person does the ritual or delivers their lines is not appropriate. Just focus on your own work and leave the stage direction to the Director of Ceremonies or Past Hierophant, it is their job! Hopefully they can work with each officer, and balance the group to help bring out the best performance that each officer has to offer.


Finally, there are bad teachers and groups out there. The world is full of people who are waiting to cause trouble. There are narcissists, sociopaths, etc. This isn't different in a magical Order. But for some reason there are just a few more folks with personality disorders in spiritual or religious groups, and Orders aren't really different from regular religions in this regard. People with personality disorders seem to gravitate to leadership positions where students or seekers are more vulnerable. Students just need to keep their radar on and defenses up. If it seems like someone might be a bad person, trust your instinct and stay away from them and their group.


I want to return again to the question of why joining a Golden Dawn Order is helpful. New people sometimes believe that everything can be found online, and that any questions they have can be picked up by asking around online forums. Magic is not something that can be taught from an online video like changing a car tire or making a special dinner recepie. The internet is a great resource for information. But, no reasonable person believes they can completely crowd-source their own post-secondary education online. So why is it that some of us believe that they can crowd-source their initiations online? We do need experienced teachers who can take us through the curriculum in an organized way. Now there are excellent forums online where a massive amount of information is available. However, groups on theurgy or Golden Dawn are generally more helpful to people who are already familiar with the tradition. They are not usually helpful to beginners, so unless you are dutifully following the same agreed-upon curriculum as everyone else, these groups may not be as helpful as a beginner might think. 

The real problem with autodidactic learning is that when we are beginners we don't usually know what the pitfalls are until we fall into them, nor do we know how to formulate the right questions, much less find the answers. Sure, we can ask others who are present in various online groups for help, but after 30 years of magical practice I can say without hesitation that there are very few posts and replies online that contain the right information. At best you can only cull tidbits of knowledge here and there, but most replies to questions are usually fruitless speculation.

Let's say that we do find a knowledgeable occultist online who will answer a few questions, and there are a few of them out there. They usually won't take a personal interest in you. In public they tend to discuss only magical history rather than practice. Usually experienced magicians are just presenting a helpful public persona to introduce themselves to would-be students. They aren't going to discuss personal magical or spiritual experiences in a public forum. Very rarely are these personalities interested in training people for free or sharing the most important information on practice over public groups. Most often these types of teachers are only online as an intake strategy so they can offer their own classes or to try and get you to join their Order. There is nothing wrong with this! They have their own offerings, and either you can join signup with them, or join something else's thing. But, and it's a big but, you won't get a proper education by picking up the tiny drizzle of information they strategically left out as advertising for their course or group. Just because they don't state in public that they offer classes or membership in an Order, doesn't mean they don't. You just need to send them an instant message, and I'm pretty sure they will sign you up for their "secret Order". We should never think that "cherry-picking" some random questions from these experienced types publically online will be a substitute for a properly administered curriculum. All you are doing is pestering them, and misleading yourself. To obtain a comprehensive level of teaching, again, you usually have to join an Order or find a dedicated teacher. It's better if you join an Order that has a local group, or a teacher who can meet with you in person, otherwise you have to travel, which is a pretty regular requirement when there is no temple near you.


Just be careful what teacher or Order you affiliate yourself with. Magic or theurgy is a very spiritual endeavor, and when we do it we open ourselves up and are vulnerable, especially at first. There are lots of people out there who pretend to be knowledgeable, but are really just posturing. Like I already mentioned, many people in the regular world have personality disorders, so it is easily possible to have a teacher or join an Order that is run by one of them. When these types of hurtful people are in positions of power, they can cause their students even more damage than an uninitiated person would because of how vulnerable their magical students are. Finding good teachers who are willing to establish a long-term relationship with a student is rare, and anyone who seems wise should be checked out thoroughly before you begin taking their classes or joining their Order. 


The best approach for the beginner has always been to join a reputable magical Order. I recommend the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn, but I am biased! You may or may not be a good fit with us, but that's just how life is sometimes. Most people seeking the Golden Dawn are quite satisfied with our Order. We have a solid curriculum, and groups all around the world, which means the travel isn't usually too far to go. It's designed so that you can work through our material in an organized fashion, and connect with a more experienced initiate in the Order who is willing to take you under their wing and train you properly. There is just no substitute for quality, no matter how remarkable we may think we are! 😉

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I was just remarking to a friend about the comparison of The Golden Dawn to Freemasonry. For many of us, there seem to be a lot of pagan influences in GD, which is an interesting turn of events considering paganism was revived from prominent GD members such as Fortune, Crowley, Yeats and Mathers. However, if you look to Masonic sources, orders like OTO and The Golden Dawn are referred to as "fringe-masonry". While this is often intended to be a pejorative, because these orders do not "make masons", their point that the modern lodge or magical temple structure comes from Freemasonry is well taken. But then again, a number of institutions and legal structures also derive from Freemasonry, such as Robert's Rules of Order, the proceedings of the House of Commons in my native country of Canada and in various other governments around the world. My understanding is that masonic by laws (bye-laws) were what the Canadian Provinces used as the model for non-profit societies, a bit of influential law still very much in use today. I can only assume a similar process may have occurred in the formation of not-for-profit laws in other countries, but as an occultist, this is going beyond my area of expertise.

Historical reviews of the proto-elements that came together in The Golden Dawn and movements which came after the GD make an interesting study. Whether we are talking about masonic lodges as the basis for the GD temple (lodge) structure, or Windsor paints influencing GD colour magic, there are a number of constituting elements that come together to make The Golden Dawn, we can not accurately attribute it to only one source. I like seeing what Crowley wrote for the ceremonies in his later orders, which were written in the early 1900's after his involvement in The Golden Dawn and exposure to other fringe-masonic orders. A lot of insight can be gleamed examining what is similar and different in these various traditions. For example, in my opinion we can see that Crowley was likely using Ancient Freemasonry or the first three degrees of Scottish Rite to put together the OTO scripts. One example is because the prayers are always given at the Altar or coming toward the Altar in the early degrees of OTO, which is a feature uncommon in masonry - other than in the Ancient work, where the prayer is also at the Altar (and not the door to the lodge).

I also find that looking at what Emulation Freemasonry contributed to the GD is a good starting point. Internal hallmarks in the ceremonies include the verbiage, blocking and stage directions. In some places we find even the later changes between The Golden Dawn and Stella Matutina ceremonies are influenced by elements of Freemasonry again. Meanwhile, we can see that it was Emulation Freemasonry that informed the writer or writers of the Golden Dawn. One example is that unlike the stout Altar in the Ancient Work, the Emulation and GD Altars are both in the form of a double-cube. Another example is the aforementioned prayers in OTO and Ancient Freemasonry instead become redacted versicles offered at the door to the GD Hall, while in Emulation Freemasonry, the prayers are also given between the pillars when the Candidate is at or near the door. (However, this is not a perfect comparison, because the ever-innovative GD then provides a later Altar prayer in the Neophyte Ceremony which uses some of the verbiage of the aforementioned masonic prayers.)

While being familiar with other systems can make one a well rounded occultist, that doesn't mean that I recommend chucking a square and compass on the altar besides the cross and triangle in a GD temple. They are very different orders with different purposes. GD is a magical college, while masonry is exclusively fraternal and charitable. The same thing goes for mixing Thelema or any other magical traditions in with the GD work, such as folk magic or voodoo. It is just a bad blend, for just as the cosmetic similarities with freemasonry do not suddenly make GD masonic, what makes the various magical systems and religions different are actually key incompatibilities. These are serious distinctions, regardless if they both use psalms or there are similar verbiage or timing of where to give a prayer in a ceremony. 

For example, Crowley seemed to make an modus operandi of inverting every symbol to its "evil" position, and then making these symbols now become good in his new system of Thelema. My favorite examples of this are taking the supernal triangle from the Neophyte sash, and using it in a way that GD adepts would interpret it as the inverted triangle of evil, but then it suddenly becomes the holy child Ra Hoor Khuit on the robe of the AA Neophyte. He selects negative numerology, such as the GD qlippotic 11, which suddenly becomes "11 is the number of magick' in Thelema. It is like Thelema is a tantric or Hindu left hand path version of The Golden Dawn. In my meditations on it, I wonder if Crowley was actually attempting to terrorize the older occultists of his day by exclusively making use of this symbolism. The Golden Dawn seems to be working a redemptive formula through self-sacrifice, divine petitioning and prayer, while Thelema tends towards self-transformation through action. While I have learned much from investigating both systems, this is not really a good blend of philosophies or energies to be placed in one temple.

In the 20th century, it seemed that the common approach to magic was inherently synthetic. What eventually was labelled as post-modernism, seems to have hit the innovators of the occult early, creating these massive hybrid systems of magic, like GD and Thelema. But nothing can stay static forever, and looking to the future we have to ask ourselves, what can possibly come after post-modernism that can qualify as a movement powerful enough to take its place? In the modern "post post-modern age", my opinion as to how these ceremonies will be enacted in the 21st century has changed. What I am jokingly describing as "post post-modernism" seems to be an approach to authentically recreate a time and a place. This is true in new clothing styles as well as local cuisine, the cutting edge today seems to be an attempt to recreate a time period as genuinely and properly as possible. 

This has been true in GD for some time now. The newer ceremonial temples are authentically working ceremonies that are dated from a certain time, with period handmade pieces of art, old scripts and an attempt to understand the attitudes that may have been the context of the time they hale from. Like their predecessors, these occultists know that magic is a living and growing culture, and must change to survive. But unlike the previous generation of post-modern magicians, the solution is not to let every idea or additional similar but alien approaches into the temple in some kind of universal stew of magic. Believe it or not, the "post post-modern" preference is to work within a certain limited framework, and rigorously exclude various ideas and influences that are not present in the original context. Gone are the days where the trickster coyote is solemnly proclaimed to be similar to the mercantile Hermes, or new age magicians stick quartz crystals on top of their GD lotus wands. It is ironic, because it is often argued that the New Age, Astrology, Thelema and Wicca owe their new popularity or revival to The Golden Dawn. Nonetheless, the current trend of the last ten years or more has been to try and understand magic in its original context first, without being influenced or even damaged by alien ideas being re-inserted back into The Golden Dawn from New Age teachings, Thelema or Wicca. This is not just in The Golden Dawn, for Solomonic practitioners are also experiencing some fulfillment with this approach as well.

While I find myself very much in sympathy with this more nuanced modern approach, it does bring in a new set of unexpected problems that we must face. A perusal of the original documents will show that while the Outer Order ceremonies were always scripted, there appears to have been a high degree of flexibility to the early Inner Order rituals of the Golden Dawn. Therefore, if the modern temples are to do this authentically, we have to be careful not to rigidly apply one possible script when we could appropriately write our own, or trying to make an impossible copy of details or features shown in the older ink drawings of the wooden tools. Certain invocations and traditions that seem set in stone by the SM time period (as revealed print by Regardie) had actually started off as an instruction to compose one's own invocation using a set of sephirotic or planetary names. At some point during the process of journal copying leading up to the publication of the first SM ceremonies by Aries Press in the 1930's we lost this flexibility and the inner order system became entrenched in one set of consecration scripts. Overly rigid searching for source materials when the originals instruct us to compose our own, or literalism in constructing what is essentially a painted magic dowel can eventually skew our impression of what the old late 1800's GD order really was - a tradition in the midst of an intellectual and creative growth spurt.

Looking at kabbalah in the 1600's, we find a similar creative phenomenon.  It was an intense period of growth for Jewish Mysticism, and in his Kabbalah, Scholem points out that it was a very innovative time for the subject. He cites a number of ideas and influences from Neoplatonic and other sources. Meanwhile, in the later, post-messianic time-period, eventually we find the Hassidic movement beginning by hearkening back to the 1600's as the most authentic for the subject of Kabbalah. No problem there, but in practice, the 15 and 1600's were treated as a fixed orthodoxy. As much as I like the Hassidus, this is not what the history books teach, the 1600's were far more creative and flexible.

While I am not an anthropologist, but rather a practitioner or occultist, I have heard similar remarks made about the oral tradition of some indigenous peoples. As I understand it, these traditions (in some cases spanning thousands of years) have been treated as a fixed source, but only after their publication. With Native American traditions, it is a really strange turn of events when those whose task and vocation was to promote the oral tradition now seem to prefer to fall back on the books of academics to tell them what their tradition really was. This, I feel, could be the chief danger in our new, though laudable,  "post post-modernist" approach. We simply have too many books, and not all of them are correct. A study of our original materials show that there was apparently a vitality and flexibility in the Inner Order of the GD that had itself halted somewhere along the way. When we mix in other traditions, it can provide some innovation, but with the previous thirty years of people introducing crystals and too many other elements into the GD Hall, we are promoting a lack of certainty of what exactly the tradition is. Yes, there are common elements in different traditions. However, there are also differences, and I am not always certain our newest initiates really understand the distinction. We need to get back to the original approach, and this was limited to study of the right information, and continued practice. Now, I give some examples of similarities with Freemasonry, but then distinctions are drawn where the similarities end. This might be par for the course in an academic setting, but this is not always the methodology of the practitioner, who tends to prize utility of the moment over correct procedure and historiography. The Golden Dawn, while innovative in its day, never included wholesale adoption of these alien traditions into the order based on overly simplified but cursory similarities to the GD work. There is a limit to how far we can compare various traditions before we begin to lose resolution entirely.

However, the order did include a wider education in proto-source material, including but not limited to Freemasonry, Theosophy, Astrology, the Lurianic Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, and the Corpus Hermeticum. This is what the order I am from is involved in, promoting education of the traditional forms of magic, without allowing adulteration by a "stew-pot" mentality towards comparative religion, which tends to obscure the unique differences between them. For more information, feel free to investigate further at

So, even though I see a potential for over-rigidity as a concern, I also am excited for what the future may hold. For me the solution is to try and stay loose in areas that won't damage the original paradigm. We should feel free to write our own inner order invocations, but continue using traditional names and attributes. We should make and thoroughly work with a set of traditional tools, but after a time, go ahead and make another new set for personal use using different colours, shapes, or even other sephiroth. Try using different sets of the traditional divine names. Do not initiate others with personal tools or unique ideas, always fall back on the traditional system as we have a responsibility to pass on the tradition as authentically as possible. However, do be confident to go ahead and innovate in your own personal work, for that is how we will grow and learn as a tradition for the future.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Over the years, there has been a variety of cross-pollination between the various traditions of Western Goetia, Evocation, Voodoo, and Hoodoo. Particularly interesting is the use of veves in Voodoo, a practice which we can attribute to Spanish Catholics exposing the African Americans to Goetia in the 1600's and 1700's.  Santeria makes use of statues of Catholic Saints to represent its African gods. In ancient Greece, there is the theurgic tradition of using statues as well. Within these temples or shrines, the effigies were said to move and speak to the faithful. (Jake Stratton-Kent examines this in his excellent 2 volume work, Geosophia.)
Many years ago, I came up with the idea to work in a similar manner as in Santaria, but rather with classical Greek and Roman statuary. It would be challenging and prohibitively expensive to make a statue for each spirit or angel I had ever worked with, but this is what I wanted to do. Meditating on the idea, I came up with a solution, which was that I would only make seven statues, one for each planet.
What makes the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn system different from other older traditions, is the introduction of modular tools. In the Golden Dawn, (or more correctly, the RR et AC tradition), certain flashing colours are employed to represent planetary and other astrological forces. For example, the Adept can use the Lotus Wand to invoke the astrological forces via the coloured bands or grips. If I was to make up statues of the planets, I could use them to invoke the various gods, angels and spirits, but in a modular fashion. For example, all the Venusian characters, such as YHVH Tzabaoth, Hanael, Kedemial, Astarte, Aphrodite, etc., could be invoked in a theurgic manner into a statue of Venus as a material basis.
There first problem with this new formula was that I wanted to be able to use it for seal-based evocations as well as theurgy and the sigils would result in concentrating the sephirotic or planetary energies too specifically into certain names, which I knew would result in mildly kelipotic manifestations when I tried to switch pantheons. In the old order, some of the Adepti experimented with making a second set of elemental tools but without sigils, so I made the assumption that by extension these statues could also be left somewhat plain, to accommodate a variety of names for the one force being employed. This overcame my first concern.
The second problem is the cleansing of the statue between entities.  Thankfully, the Inner Order Z2 for evocation presents a highly effective license to depart and then banishing formula that doesn't appear elsewhere in magical literature.
Depicted above is a photo of one of the deities I have worked with. It is a statue of Venus, after the Botticelli painting. For more information, see my book Adept Magic in the Golden Dawn Tradition, which may now be pre-ordered from the publisher Kerubim Press.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Frater YShY - Biography

Frater YShY (pronounced: Frater Yod Shin Yod) is a Past Imperator and one of the founding members of Thuban Temple in Victoria, BC; the Mother Temple of the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn.  He is involved in various other lodges of the Western Mystery Tradition and Freemasonry, including the modern Asiatic Bretheren.  
He has a keen interest in the Golden Dawn, Jewish Kabbalah, Greek and Roman studies and tarot; as well as Talismans, Enochian scrying and Classical Evocation.  His first book, entitled The Path of the Chameleon, is the modern al Tinnin Vault Zelator Adeptus Minor papers from HSGD.  This presents his work on the Neophyte Formula and examples of his own completed Z2 rituals.  The Path of the Chameleon is upcoming from Kerubim Press in 2013.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review of "King Over the Water"

Review of King Over the Water, authored by Nick Farrell
Originally published in Hermetic Virtues, Summer Solstice 2012
By Frater YShY

Every so often a publication comes along on the Golden Dawn that has the potential to change a bit of the history of the old Order; this is definitely such a book. Within its pages we find a new depth to old topics we have not seen considered in print before, and it offers previously unpublished documents that show a slightly different method of how the rituals could have been worked. There is also a commentary by the author that threads its way through each section that is both interesting and provocative. So, this volume provides a variety of content, and I am of the opinion that it will make a valuable addition for any serious magical library, being a must for anyone studying or practising Golden Dawn magic.

King Over the Water starts with a section on the history of Samuel Liddell "MacGregor" Mathers, Golden Dawn co-founder, and Chief of his later GD off-shoot which he renamed the Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega, or AO for short. An important quality of the book is its historical approach. It has not been composed with the methodology or rigorous standards of history, anthropology; but rather from the magico-psychological perspective of a practitioner of the Golden Dawn tradition. Any brief perusal of its pages shows that it indeed dances between speculation on the psychology of Mathers, and the facts of various detailed historical events; all of which is informed by the knowledge and consideration of magical theory from the perspective of an operative magician.  As magic does not yet have its own characteristic methodology or discipline, the book does not require itself to operate under the rigorous standards of another field of study; and the finished product takes advantage of this latitude. What it is, is a magical book written under the auspices of the Golden Dawn tradition; it is an internal history of GD magic written by a magician, for magicians.

The places King Over the Water  in a different category from the other extant works of GD history. While some other works demean the practical side of the subject, and others are written from a clearly demarcated historical perspective, King is accepting of the magical world-view, and takes a personal approach. All of the above are acceptable positions in my own opinion, depending on the author’s relationship to the historical material. Even the kindest scholarly representations of GD history have been penned carefully to avoid any discussion of the internal and transformative reasons for practising the tradition; in short, they are carefully written to avoid any discussion of magic.

King Over the Water  is not unlike other very popular books on Alternative History and Freemasonry in particular; such as the prolific publications of Knight and Lomas. Like these other books of Alternative History, King Over the Water indeed shares a similar, more casual, writing style. I did notice the use of the common vernacular was consistent throughout the book, and that the same cultural idioms that were oft-repeated.  Some of these slang phrases were unfamiliar to me, and in places I found that a bit difficult to follow. As I progressed past the introduction, I grew accustomed to the style of presentation, which was more conversational and informative than the dry academic reading that I am more used to, and was actually expecting from this book. There was also a dour and surprisingly humorous quality to the content that I fancy will catch a few of the more serious amongst us a little off-guard. I quickly settled into reading King Over the Water and began to enjoy the content immensely.

I agree with most of the conclusions and suggestive interpretations made about Mr. Mathers in these pages. I found the assessments of his faults and strengths to be accurate assumptions, and I was surprised how King Over the Water actually mirrored some of my own speculative opinions closely.  In many cases this amounts to an undignified look at Mathers, but it is not necessarily an unwarranted characterisation, for at times there were indeed very foolish or unsavoury tales that must be told in order for the book to fulfil its stated objective as a historical work. In essence, it was a life story that was at times difficult for me to hear and discover portions of as a reader and GD aficionado, and a few times I found myself wincing at some of the stories.  However, I recognise that the candidness was warranted and provided a most honest picture of the man. In this regard, and most importantly, I found the book's information to be detailed and accurate, and in my opinion the assessment of Mathers’ personality was fair, astute, well-thought out and reasonably communicated. The addition of the detailed obituary by John William Brodie-Innes is of course priceless and well-placed at the end of the book. Because as he was a close associate of Mathers, its fond and lengthy characterisation serves to confirm much of this book's main hypothesis about Mathers personality; all the while soothing out some of our impressions of his foibles with the kindness that a good friendship and long association can sometimes bring between two men.

The book recognises that in any lay person's psychological analysis it is hard to be certain of conclusions such as this with anyone, even with ourselves, and much less with a long-since deceased person. At the same time, the book does not shy away from some of its more difficult descriptions about Mathers. This is a position I respect, for going back to my characterisation of the book's approach as 'magico-philosophical', in modern GD practise this level of self-conscious consideration should be present in the work of every a magician, and encouraging this open analysis is an important process to undergo personally as well as when considering the possible motives of others. In this regard, I heartily appreciated the attempts to interject only the right amount of uncertainty into the research being presented, and in this an academic method is emulated. This has the very much desired effect of rendering the new interpretations presented in King Over the Water as more plausible. For those of us in other areas of expertise who are perhaps unused to reading or participating in this sort of academic work, I would kindly share or volunteer that this is a standard methodology in historical works.  Typically a paper or book presents factual information; makes conclusions which are sometimes new or difficult; provides some possible objections to its own thesis that seem logical, or may be from the intended audience’s perspective or the status quo; and then it finally overturns each of those objections and verifies its original thesis. It will not be hard for the average interested reader who is a non-expert to readily distinguish where the blanks are being filled in by speculation between the harder facts which are usually cited.

While it is not mentioned in the body of the text, the biographical notes in the back cover make it clear that the author is drawing on initiatory experiences and oral traditions in the various GD related groups he has been active in. While reading, one is left with the impression that much of the information without citation is blended oral tradition and the author's own opinions, all of which I enjoyed reading. While it is written from the attitude of a practitioner, and as has already been mentioned, therefore has no obligatory requirement to take up a specific methodology in its approach; nonetheless, as a reader I was so captivated by some of the stories so much that I wished to know more about the sources of some of the information. A small criticism and request would therefore be that I would have liked to have seen even more historical citations presented whenever it was possible. As this book already shows all the hallmarks of a title that will be much sought-after for years to come, I expect will likely be slated for re-prints. Perhaps the need for more citations is something that could be rectified in future or new expanded editions.

In a final analysis, the foray into Mathers and the old Golden Dawn’s history was well done. Particularly the sections on Mathers possible political motives and some of his unsavoury and extreme associations in Right Wing politics were new to me, as I expect they will be to many of King’s readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the political section of the book, while the publication of some of these older documents has been long overdue. The slight dabs of layman's psycho-analysis were warranted and will be much appreciated to anyone following a magical path. I have always felt that a genuine magician’s primary goals would be tertiary in nature: first, to develop a specialised skill-set; second, to better oneself; and third, to improve the world around us. Wisdom and insight are two inner constitutions life's maturity can take, regardless if one is working to better oneself through a magical path or not, and in this regard, ribald humour aside, King delivers.

These commentaries were interesting, and I particularly valued those on the Vault.  The section on the Vault walls was good, as well as the typescript and reprinted sections from an original MSS of Book of the Tomb, which is not available in print anywhere else; it has literally been a long-lost document to many of us. Now we finally have the painting instructions for the inside of the Pastos that are missing from all other published Golden Dawn books.

Furthermore, the author offers a personal dialogue about his efforts building a Vault. While I do not always agree with the more personal magical theories presented in King Over the Water, no matter, because they are worthy as an Adept-level considerations, they are thought-provoking and intelligent, and so I enjoyed pondering them.  I really can not emphasise this enough.  This level of Golden Dawn work is valuable, and by finally printing the Book of the Tomb and providing an insightful Commentary, this book proves to be an excellent reference and will take its place as the primary resource for Vault construction.  For anyone serious magical practitioner of the Golden Dawn tradition, this tiny section alone is worth many times the cover price.

I also thought some of the cipher musings were pretty astute. I have been a proponent of what the book terms as the "reverse-engineered" school for going on 20 years, which is the suggestion that the cipher itself is forged after or during the same time period as the rituals were worked out. I will not support this assertion in this review; rather, you can read all about it in King.

The section on S.L. Mathers is about two-thirds of the book, and is therefore the main feature of attention; however, the original documents such as The Book of the Tomb and the full versions of the Alpha et Omega’s Z Documents, which are both printed here in full for the first time, are where this book really shines for the researcher. There is also a solid document on colour written by an anonymous modern Adept that is informative and helpful.

There are only the most minor editing details that were missed and some Hebrew misspelling, but that is par for the course in any major undertaking such as this book obviously has been. I recall finding far worse mistakes in the various editions of The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, mistakes that we have all had to contend with for many decades before they were rectified in the newer editions. As always, when using information of this nature several texts should be compared, as the maxim goes: caveat lector. This small observation should not deter anyone from picking up this excellent book, there were fewer mistakes in King Over the Water than in your average popular novel has these days, and in this regard the editing staff did a good job.

The pencil or charcoal sketches by Paola Farrell also deserve mention. They are very beautiful, and these pieces add a dimension and an elegance to the book that is lacking from other new books on the same subject that are inexplicably peopled with the usual fare of clip-art, or photocopied and pixleated wood-cut images.

All-in-all, I think this book is an invaluable addition to the corpus of Golden Dawn reference books, and I am appreciative of its variety of contents. As the years pass, I feel this is a volume that generations of magicians will be grateful to have access to; and I would not be surprised if various Adepts are now repainting sections of their Pastos and Vault based on these newly available instructions! I have really enjoyed reading this book, and I encourage people to buy this and study it well, your efforts will be well repaid.

King Over the Water by Nick Farrell.
Kerubim Press.  ISBN 978-1-908705-01-3.  362 pages.  (£16.50)

Monday, June 25, 2012

HOGD 30th Anno!

Congrats to the HOGD on their big event. 

This "birthday e-card" below went around over the last few weeks to most of the GD and other Orders who are "fraternal" or rather co-ed "societal" with each other, as well as to authors and individuals of note, not all of whom are GD.

Kind of like a birthday at the office.  ;)

Check out the Facebook Group:

Because of the distance from the States, our Temple ( do not get to meet a lot of people face to face as often as some of the American temples and Orders; but we sure do correspond online whenever possible, and when we do meet up, it can really be worthwhile.  After this announcement, and the Facebook posts, the folks in our group have been sending me private emails saying how proud they are to be part of GD in general, and happy for the HOGD in their accomplishments as well.

Nice to see that the GD groups around the world are populated with healthy, well-mannered people who are in contact with each other, and get along well; even if we are in different orders.  ;)

Thank you to the Cicero's and the HOGD, 30 years is a long time these days, that is way longer than the original Order ran without interruption for in Europe and the UK; you folks must be doing something right.  Keep on writing and keep up The Great Work!