A Brief Defense of the Golden Dawn System of Magic

On the Occult Corpus website, a poster by the name of alwayson posted a thread entitled ‘How to Become Better than a Golden Dawn Magician,’ in which he claimed that one could easily do just what he claimed in his title by practicing a modernized form of the Lesser Key of Solomon.

My first question was how many authentic “Golden Dawn magicians” he had met. Did you really mean people who knew the LRP and the Middle Pillar ritual and claimed to be Adepts? Or people who have done Kraig’s five exercises for each element and claim the Grades of Zelator to Philosophus? While I own and appreciate Kraig’s Modern Magick, I found his claim that the magician who had done these short exercises, constructed the Elemental Weapons, and done the other ritual and Tarot work leading up to that point could claim the grade of Adeptus Minor without even knowing the basic astrological and zodiacal knowledge given in the First Knowledge Lecture of the Neophyte suspect.

There are few authentic Golden Dawn magicians today who actually work through the grades as they were intended to be worked and take the time to deeply engage with and reflect on the knowledge and rituals given in each grade. Thus, it is difficult to make broad statements about ‘Golden Dawn Magicians’ and their efficacy and inefficacy. Certainly, someone who works the Key of Solomon as it was intended to be worked, using the correct invocations and physical implements would probably be a more attuned, experienced, and knowledgeable magician that one who simply knows the LBRP and the Middle Pillar Ritual. However, this says nothing of those who have worked through the whole Golden Dawn curriculum.

To position myself in this debate, by the way, I still have a great deal to learn and have only just scratched the surface of this incredible system. I am also not a G.’.D.’. fundamentalist; I plan to devote deep study to the Grimoires and the Enochian systems after I have complete my grade work in the Golden Dawn.  In fact, McGregor Mathers himself regularly practiced the Grimoiric systems– there is a precedent for departing outside the flexible boundaries of the G.’.D.’. within the tradition itself.

In addition, Chic and Tabatha Cicero may have their detractors, but take a look at their Knowledge Lectures for the grades from Neophyte to Portal. They are incrediblyextensive. After only completing the Neophyte grade of 0=-0–and I mean here, thoroughly completing it, not rushing through it in a month–the Neophyte will be well-versed in the Hebrew letters and their numerical values, meanings, and symbolic appearances, in the Ancient Planets and their sigils, rulerships, exaltations, detriments, falls, symbolic values, governed qualities, and keywords, in the Zodiacal signs and their sigils, images, triplicities, quadruplicities, key phrases, key words, prominent positive and negative traits and calendrical intervals, in the Four Elements and their sigils, English, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin names, temperature/moisture qualities, energetic properties, and symbolic valences, in the types of Qabalah, in the Tree of Life and the Sephiroth in terms of their numbers, symbols, intelligences, astrological spheres, philosophical meanings, as well as practical meditations, the LRP, the Rite of Elemental Equilibration, Adoration of the Lord of the Universe, Daily Adorations, Berakah, Body Awareness Exercise, and Extra Sensory Awareness Exercise. And this is only in the first, Probationer grade!

The Golden Dawn is an incredible syncretic system that couples 19th century magical theoretical ideas with ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance occult theories from throughout the history of occultism. It was not the only valid magical system; there are many, and the Grimoiric systems are incredibly powerful in their own right. However, it is an incredibly influential and enduring system from which many people, like myself, derive a great deal of meaning, spiritual sustenance and value. There are more or less accomplished magicians in every tradition, whether Grimoiric or Golden Dawn, and we must be open to and ready to acknowledge this. Being mindful of this diversity should make us wary of blanket statements about how to be ‘better than a Golden Dawn magician’ just as it should make us wary about general statements of ‘Grimoiric magicians.’

As a final point, in the course of the thread, a debate developed about whether or not physical tools were important in ceremonial magic operations.  My own position on this issue is clear; I am a firm advocate of the importance and value of ceremonial tools to enhance ritual practice (those who know me know that I practice what I preach in this regard and spend hours constructing my ceremonial implements). I believe many modern magicians are incredibly lazy; ‘can I use a stick for the Hierophant’s wand?’ we sometimes hear. Our instant-gratification culture tends to forget how the ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance magicians spent hours constructing their physical tools and stressed their importance and value in ritual work. As Frater Yechidah pointed out, rituals can work without the properly-fashioned tools, but they are much enhanced with them; just as we might ask ‘why use a hand when a hammer will do?,’ we might ask why use a stick when a proper Hierophant’s wand will embody the symbolism of the Middle Pillar and the lightning rod which brings down the Light from Kether to Malkuth? The most effective ceremonial practice encompasses both the physical and the astral levels, the Above and the Below. The magician works simultaneously on both levels and embodies the truth of the ancient Hermetic principle of “As Above, so Below, and as Below, so Above.”

3 comments on “A Brief Defense of the Golden Dawn System of Magic

  1. Peregrin says:

    Good post! Thanks 🙂 Just waded through the Occult Corpus muck…need a shower now. You make some very good points here 🙂

  2. John Phipps says:

    WG Gray in his Concepts of Qabalah gives a very good explanation of the relation between the tarot suits and the elements by comparing these to tools used by our ancestors. A length of wood (a “wand”) was used in conjunction with a bow to make fire (a magical act in those days), a sword was used to cut through the air and slice down enemies (metaphorically cutting through illusion to reach the truth), a cup was needed to drink water (essential for life), a shield (a pentacle) was used to carry earth used for shelter and defence.

    Hope that clarifies the issue. bests JP

    • Thank you for your insightful comment, John. It is the first time I read it today, 3 years after you right it, but at at very synchronistic time. I was just speaking with a German Adept who mentioned how his esoteric understanding was profoundly enhanced by his studies of W.G. Gray. After reading your comment, I feel inspired to give Gray some more careful attention as well. Thank you again for sharing!

      In LVX,
      Frater S.C.F.V.

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