Deeper Mysteries of the Great Work: Golden Dawn, Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta

By Frater S.C.F.V.

GoldenDawnlogoQ: I would like to ask you a question. I have been studying some great Golden Dawn based books and I have noticed there seems to be a lot of attention on the will. Personally, having studied the teachings of Buddhism and Advaita Vedants, I tend not to believe in “free will.”

To me, the world does not make much sense when I would accept the existence of a free will. The belief in free will also has a lot of troublesome consequences, concerning morality, a soul/mind seperate from the brain of the body which can result in many what I would call “ego based illusions” which hinder my spiritual life more then they do any good. What are your views on this subject?

A: This is a fantastic question. Your concerns resonate with some of the same ones I had when I began studying the Golden Dawn since, somewhat like you, I had trained in Zen Buddhism and was initiated into Advaita Vedanta.

The Buddhist approach and the Advaita approach both negate the personal I and deconstruct the sense of personal self that in the Qabalah, corresponds to the Ruach.


Advaita mainly proceeds by negating all aspects of our being and simply abiding as the so-called “Higher” Self, Atman-Brahman, or the Awareness of the Yechidah. When the Advaita sage Nisargadatta Maharaj talks about holding on to the pure and simple sense of being, which he calls the “sense I Am,” that is ultimately consonant with the G.D. system since the Divine Name of Keter (כתר) is Eheieh (אהיה – I Am).

Beyond Keter (כתר) is the limitless light of pure Awareness (אין סוף אור – Ain Soph Aur), beyond which is the Ain Soph (אֵין סוֹף – Limitlessness) and Ain (אֵין – No-thingness), which is beyond all concepts altogether — that is Nisargadatta’s Absolute.


It is also related to the Sunyata or emptiness of Buddhism, which is beyond even Oneness. When Zen masters say “all things return to the One, but to where does this One return?” They are pointing to the Absolute or Ground of Dzogchen or Christian mystical Godhead that is prior to both duality and nonduality, beyond phenomenological twoness and even Oneness itself.

The Qabalah’s approach as used in the G.D. is different from Advaita in the sense that it doesn’t proceed by fixating on the Yechidah or constantly negating the Ruach, although part of the 5=6 teachings concern the humbling of the personal I in surrender to the Divine.

That is, instead of fixating on constantly denying and deconstructing the personal I and clinging to the Higher Self, the Golden Dawn system simply places both in balanced context. In the Outer Order Grades, the aspirant works on building up the confidence, balance, and balance of elements within their being to train them for the magical and inner work to come.

In the Adeptus Minor, as the system is meant to be worked, one integrates what one has learned and yet humbles oneself in surrender to our Divine Nature, the Inner and the Outer, about which the Qur’an writes, “wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God!”


“The Angel of the Birds” by Franz Dvorak, 1910.

In the following passage from his What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn/My Rosicrucian Adventure, Golden Dawn Adept Israel Regardie speaks to the Hermetic approach to seeing through the ego’s illusions and our more fundamental craving impulses and how magic works to bring them into balance rather than ignoring/negating them to fixate on the higher Self, which sets them up to unconsciously wreak havoc on our lives.

This tendency towards imbalance is unfortunately what I often sadly observed in the Advaita community — that many in the community talked all day about awareness and non-self, but their lives were a mess of narcissism, anxiety, depression, nihilism, solipsism, often abusing other people and rationalizing it and so on. This was not true for the majority of students, but certainly the case for many. I observed it among some of my Zen brothers and sisters as well. These are the pitfalls of a mystical Way without Balance, as Regardie points out:

“Let me quote a few especially appropriate lines from Jung in connection with this Fall, when the fundamental basis of the Ruach has been attracted to the kingdom of shells, and when Malkuth has been completely cut off from the other Sephirot:

“Consciousness thus torn from its roots and no longer able to appeal to the authority of the primordial images, [the archetypes], possesses a Promethean freedom, it is true, but it also partakes of the nature of a godless hubris or arrogance. It soars above the earth, even above mankind, but the danger of capsizing is there, not for every individual to be sure, but collectively for the weak members of such a society, who again Promethean-like, are bound by the unconscious to the Caucasus.”

It will not do, then, for the Adept to be cut off from his roots, but he must unite and integrate his entire Tree, and train and develop the titanic forces of the unconscious so that they become as a powerful but docile beast whereon he may ride



Israel Regardie and Chic Cicero.

Thus, as we work towards bringing the dimensions of our being into alignment and Qabalistic balance, we aim for harmonization between our body (G’uph), its basic sensory and impression-receptive functions (Nephesh), a human personality and astral energetic body (Ruach), but also a deeper Self, an Awareness-I, and a sense of Willing (Yechidah, Chiah, Neshamah).

None of these dimensions absolutely or separately exists, as Buddhism points out; they, and everything else in the Universe, inter-are. The sense of Will also interdependently arises like all other manifest phenomena in the universe.

However, while Absolutely, no Will exists, relatively, it does, and is a force of Mind with which we can work. This is how I understand the work we do in Magic and the Golden Dawn path of the Great Work; we’re operating, not as an isolated separate entity, but as the Whole working on and with itself as reflected through the prism of our human consciousness and unique body-mind conditions.

This is particularly true in the selfless magic in the 6=5 Grade and the work of mystical service as the All serving the All in the 7=4 Grade, which is akin to the Path of the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism.


Relief image of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara from Mount Jiuhua, Anhui, China

The practical key to the work at all of these levels and layers is to bring all of the Qabalistic aspects of our being into alignment and work towards the Greater Good or Summum Bonum of the individual, family, community, society, and commonwealth of all beings.

In this way, we aim to avoid falling into either the imperious self-centeredness of a Ruach fallen into self-centered egotism or the trap of dissociated total disconnection from our humble humanness into which many Buddhists and Advaitins fall into by clinging to the Yechidah/Buddha Nature/Self.

In the Path of the Adept, we similarly aim to train ourselves to avoid living slavishly at the mercy of our basic desires and G’uph and Nephesh-based cravings, which as the Buddha points out, can serve us in the short term, but also give rise to suffering. As I see it, the Way of the Adept is in the final assessment, much like the Way of a Buddha, Arhant, Maharaj, or Bodhisattva, in that it is a Way of Balance.


The Pillars on the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

This teaching is evident in the Golden Dawn system from the role of the Hegemon in the Neophyte Grade Ceremony up through the Mysteries of Tipharet in the Adeptus Minor Grade and the Middle Pillar of Balanced Power between the Pillar of Severity/Strength and the Pillar of Mercy/Lovingkindness on the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

To quote the wise words of the Hiereus to this effect in the 0=0 Grade Initiation Ceremony, the task of the Initiate is to

“Study well that Great Arcanum, the proper equilibrium of mercy and severity, for either unbalanced is not good; unbalanced severity is cruelty and oppression; unbalanced mercy is but weakness and would permit evil to exist unchecked, thus making itself as it were the accomplice of that evil.”

Or, in short, the task of the Adept is to aim for balance, even in studying and working with the dynamics of polarity and the yin-yang of duality, the Mystery of nonduality, and the Absolute beyond both…


Light in Extension,
Frater S.C.F.V.,
Day of the Sun, February 25, 2018

Day of Mercury Magic – Visualization Training from The Magician in the Spirit Vision

Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2017
Time: 7:25 A.M.. to 8:05 P.M.
Sun Phase: Rising
Moon Phase: First Quarter 45%
Planetary Day: Day of Mercury
Planetary Hour: Hour of the Mercury
Mood: Tired
 LIRP, Traveling in the Spirit Vision through the Magician card


On the Day of Mercury, in the Hour of Mercury, I performed the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram and then projected through the Tarot Trump of the Magician, to which is also astrologically attributed the planet Mercury.

I emerged in the yellow room of a house (the Hebrew letter ב, attributed to the Path to which the Magician is attributed means “House”) to find the Magician standing at the table. He looked exactly as on the card, except that he wore the rose cross lamen of an Adept.

I created him with the grade signs, which he returned. I introduced myself and explained that I sought the Crown of his Understanding (his Path joins Binah (כתר) to Keter (חכמה))  and guidance in developing my abilities in clairvoyance and visualization.

The Magician spoke with a voice warm, yet firm, authoritative, yet calm. He invited me to follow along as he led me through a series of exercises.

He asked me to visualize in sequence a red ball, yellow ball, black ball, and blue ball. Arriving at the blue ball, he asked me to practice changing its texture at Will, first to a ball of sapphire, second to a ball of blue sequins, third to the texture of a reflective mirror.

“Through practice, the Sword of the visualizing Mind is sharply honed,”

he explained.

“Therefore, let us practice once more with the Elements, which you know well.”

First, he invited me to evoke the image of the alchemical Air Triangle in bright yellow. Within its center, I traced the Sigil of Aquarius in Purple. I observed that it was easier for me to see the yellow image than the purple, which seemed faded and diffuse. “Draw on your strengths, bolster your weaknesses through practice,” the Magician explained.

Projecting through the Air Sigil, I found myself surrounded by towering tornados, as clouds and birds circled above.

“Calm and empty your mind. Balance active Will with passive receptivity. Let the pictures come to you,”

the Magician explained, in a way that reminded me of what Soror C.R. had told me during our Dagger Consecration Ceremony, that her breakthrough in clairvoyance when she learned to trust and surrender to the images to come to her rather than exerting her Will and effort to control them as Magicians are wont to do…

Next, the Magician invited me to trace a flaming red Fire Triangle with a Green Leo sigil in its center. Projecting through it, I fell into the depths of a volcano and saw magma coursing around me; suddenly, from its depths, a blazing phoenix soared into the sky, embers cascading from its scintillating wings…

The next task was the tracing of a bright blue Water Triangle with a centered orange sigil of the Eagle within it. Projecting through it, I at first found myself trying to actively direct and control the visualization by straining to see an ocean. This exercise failed utterly and proved complete futile. At last surrendering and allowing the images to come to me rather than to go to them, I found myself plunging into a pool of cool water at the base of a towering waterfall. This evoked memories of swimming in waterfalls in the wilderness of Muskoka, and with it, cool sensations and joyful memories.

Last was the Earth Triangle, traced in shimmering black with a white Taurus at its center. Projecting through, I once again found the images vague, indistinct and incomplete. Once again, the Magician repeated his instruction, with deep understanding and patience–I am apparently as hard-headed as the Taurus sigil itself!–inviting me to

“calm and empty your mind. Balance active Will with passive receptivity. Let the pictures come to you.”

I begin to astrally repeat “Earth… Earth.. Earth…” and to listen more than to speak, tuning in, allowing consciousness to expand and deepen, to empty that it might be filled…

At last, a cavern came into view and enveloped my whole field of perception, a cavern filled with shining quartz and amethyst crystals being diligently mined by Gnomes. The scene then shifted into a snowy white forest, with a giant evergreen tree in its center.

Standing by the tree alongside me, the Magician explained:

“The power of visualization is great indeed, but it does not come from the ego. It must come from higher above and deeper below. Call the images with intention and Will and then but invite them to appear with understanding. Having done this, open yourself entirely like the water Cup and allow your astral vision to be filled.”

I thanked the Magician for his wise counsel and asked him if I might come again to see him for further instruction. He smiled and said “By all means, students of the Mysteries are ever welcome in this House! Go in peace with the blessings of Yeheshuah Yehovashah!”

I thanked him once before. Before I left, the Magician uttered his final words in this Vision:

“Humble your ego,
Open your mind,
Lead with the heart,
And your spirit will fly!”