Whare Ra gets it wrong

Whare Ra’s reputation for being the world’s most enduring and thorough magical order took a battering this week after it was discovered that the Golden Dawn order lived with a glaring mistake for more than 60 years.
Whare Ra operated successfully in Havelock North from 1916 until the late 1970s making it the most enduring and successful Golden Dawn orders.  Its training programme was rigorous and detailed and created adepts who trained other generations of adepts.
But it appears that the system had flaws including a brilliant howler which went un-noticed by Whare Ra members, and people who studied the history of the group afterwards, including me.
The Whare Ra pillars have been preserved by the Chivalric Hall  Society in Havelock North.  There they have been studied, measured, their cartouche’s copied into several books and compared with those created by Regardie.  
Then this week I was contacted by the Felkin Society Trust who were curious to know if I was aware of any unique tradition regarding the Whare Ra pillars.
“We have gone through all the paperwork, including Regardie, Mathers and articles on the pillars within the Golden Dawn tradition and we can’t find a reason for it.”
The problem is really obvious if you look at photographs of the pillars and know there is something wrong.

Can you see what it is yet?

The cartouche for the white pillar has been placed on the black pillar and the black pillar on the white.    This would have taken a lot of effort because they painted the images in reverse colours.
It is enough to give any pedant a stroke, given the fact they seem to have apoplexy if they see a comma wrote in a ritual typescript.  My first thought was that someone had repainted the pillars and flipped them (the pillars do have a fresher coat of paint) but that would take an even bigger effort (ever tried to cover black paint with white?) and would not be a logical thing to do as you would be literally trying to make a cover-up
What difference does it make?  Well, not much really. The white pillar is supposed to contain all the second order mysteries and the black one the first Order.    It is obvious as the First Order is all about the Judgement hall of Maat  and this shown on the black pillar.   Much is made of this in the Whare Ra portal ceremony.
But what it does mean is that for 60 years Whare Ra used dodgy pillars.  It is inconceivable that no-one noticed the fact and it must have been something that was continually discovered and forgotten.  Perhaps marine archaeologists might uncover the bodies of those neophytes who were dumb enough to point out the mistake wearing cement shoes in the waters of Hawkes Bay.
Otherwise I would expect to have seen a flourishing “oral tradition” among Whare Ra members which explained why they had a different set of pillars from the rest of the Golden Dawn and indeed the Stella Matutina.  The fact that there was not one, nor had anyone mentioned the mistake, probably meant that they had not noticed.  Hell, I have sat with the things in front of me for hours and I didn’t spot it either.
But if any of this blog’s readers might have a reason why Whare Ra flipped the cartouches on the pillars we are going to have to put this one down to a cock-up which no-one noticed, or cared about, for more than 60 years.


It is starting to look like it was deliberate, although I can’t say I agree with the reasoning.  Pat Zalewski replied in his group:

I actually addressed issue this in my 0=0 book some years ago and also in my GD Ritual Commentaries book(pp.127-132). It is more of a case of “Whare ra gets it right” rather than the other way round. The drawings on the pillars that Brodie Inness gave relate to both the 0=0 and 5=6. The problem was the 0=0 was on the white Pillar and the 5=6 was on the black. Felkin solved the problem and switched it back to match what was being taught. You can also see this from an alchemical colour perspective as well the Blackening to the Whitening. I don’t have a date the pillar drawings were issued out in the GD that Regardie published but Tony Fuller may be able to help there. In my books I left the pillars in the GD colours for the sake of tradition with a caveat of what was taught at Whare ra and why. I have also broken down
The pillar plates to match aspects of the 0=0. I am firmly siding with Felkin here, regardless of what Brodie or Mathers had on their pillars. I am told some temples never had any plates on them at all. THE Z PAPERS MAKE THIS OPTIONAL- WHICH IS A GET OF OF JAIL CARD IF THEY GOT IT WRONG.

Tony DeLuce added:

The reason why the S.M. swapped the shoulders the sashes are worn on ( they were trying to match the pillar inscriptions to the First and Second Orders rather than the Pillars themselves)… The G.D. and the A.O. wore the black sash on the right shoulder and the white sash on the left shoulder – if you lay down on the Temple floor on your back with your head in the East and your Feet in the West you get the picture 

In my view this makes a symbol which is simple too complex. In the Mathers paper on the pillars it was fairly simple. The black pillar always represented the first order while the white the second order.   The drawings therefore represented a process in a logical sequence.  The scene in the Judgement Hall is perfect for the 0=0, but has little to with the 5=6.  
The ciphers are not specific about what spiritual diagrams you should use (Mathers used the book of the dead). The original golden dawn hung the drawings from its square pillars (it meant they could be taken off for other grades)  and had images of the Kerubs placed on the tops.  The pyramids were wood through which a candle was threaded.

The 125th chapter is to do with Judgement and the 42 assessors.   Its symbolism is to do with judgement after death (as the anon commentator points out below). Almost everyone is familiar with this chapter.  The 17th is more obscure, indeed a big chunk of it was missing from the Ani Papryus.
However the entire 0=0 is to do with recreating the 125th chapter particular scene.  It would be strange if it were associated with the post 5=6 state of being.
 Anon commentatorr (below) makes the point that the white pillar is after death and the black pillar is before.  However that does not work as both of the chapters of the book of the dead are post death states.  The 125th chapter is judgement, while the 17th allowed him to go forth in the afterlife in any shape he wanted.  It was also designed to provide the dead person with the esoteric knowledge they needed in the afterlife.
Where Anon commentator might be correct is that the spell can be recited on earth to create magical effects.  It is formatted like a question and answer session which suggests an initiation sequence.
But the 17th chapter is incredibly involved and certainly beyond the scope of the first order.  It is also more focused on the evolution of the spirit so that it is connected to Ra.    After rising with Ra in the morning, itt ends with the image of Rehu the lion.  Rehu was the phallus of Ra. This would be perfectly acceptable image of second order work.
Since it appears that the flipping of the pillars by Whare Ra was not a mistake, then we are left with the question “why?”   You could argue that the 17th chapter happens before the Judgement Hall, however the Book of the Dead is not linear (or literal) and the numbering was a more modern scholar’s technique.    It also required Whare Ra to change the sashes around.

A rough guide for avoiding bad magical groups.

Joining a magical group is remarkably easy in the 21st century. It seems strange that you can read all about magical groups on the internet and think they are as common as muck. But real good quality ones are as rare as they ever have been. Finding one good one can still be a life’s work. There are many people who go from Order to order looking for something and never really finding it. Sometimes that is the universe trying to tell you that you are not ready for a real magical order. You might be looking for the wrong things, or cannot really handle the sort of training that a real magical group puts you through.  However you can save yourself some time by using some wisdom.
The idea of a coven or a magic order still has a lot of merit as they can be hot houses to learning.  But if the leadership is wrong then you could be suffering from bad experiences that you will talk about until you drop.   What follows are tips to help  work out if a Order is good or bad.

Is it too easy for you to join?

Groucho Marx once said that he would never be a member of a club who accepted him as a member.   If a group wants members, for whatever reason, they might be too keen to lower their standards.  Remember if they lower them to admit you, then there is a good chance that they have done so in the past and most of their members are not the sort of people who should really be doing magic.  Magic is not a easy path, so joining an occult group should not be easy either.  Real magical groups see people as things they have to train and a long term project. They generally should not be too concerned about getting extra people if they have enough to do their work projects. If a group seems too keen for you to join, say by paying for you to come and be initiated, you should avoid them. This means that they are desperate to boost their membership. An esoteric group should always be looking for quality over quantity. You might think that the reason a group wants you is because you are a wonderful esoteric candidate with heaps of knowledge. However to a real magical group lots of experience and pre-knowledge is a hindrance. You have to learn from scratch in any order you join so any intellectual baggage you might be carrying will have to be dropped before you join.

Does the group try to sell itself to you.

In the 21st century many groups have a web presence or a place to contact them. However a group steps over the line when it tries to sell itself like a product.   It is mostly recognised by the overblown language on their website which is pitched to stereotypes about what Muggles think magic is.  The sort of thing which promises secrets, power, mastery of the universe, cures for cancer etc.  Here are a list of common ones:
“We are the ONLY magical school teaching the TRUE and ANCIENT TECHNIQUES”
“Orders have to receive a dispensation from the Masters on the Inner Planes who are known on in the West as the Secret Chiefs.  We have been told that our Order is the only one to receive our Contact’s dispensation in the 21stcentury.”
“All others are frauds and cannot offer our secret techniques.”
“Other groups are envious that they do not have our sources of Secret Teaching and training.”
The list could go on, but you get the idea.  To get a high Google ranking you have to do a lot of shady self-promotion. This involves going onto lots of blogs and waxing lyrical about your order and encouraging all your students to mention you often on their blogs. It is possible to know who some members of magical orders are because often they are writers, but if you start to know too much you have to be careful. Self-promoting groups are trying increase their membership to make money (and sometimes sex). They are also often trying to build an esoteric cult around their actions.

Does the group block a particular group from membership and why?

Magical Groups should not stop anyone from entering on the basis that they are the wrong sex, colour, sexual orientation, physical disability, or hold different religious or political views from the members.   Magical training is possible for everyone and it does not matter what shape you are, or what you prefer to bonk (or how).
That does not mean that they HAVE to accept everyone. Some groups do not allow people to belong to other orders, or have a blacklist of groups that they will not allow members to join at the same time.  This is often not because they are bad, or evil (although it can be), it is just that they have different symbol set from the group and it would lead to some confusion.    This is particularly true of different Golden Dawn orders.  While MOAA gets on well with most of them, all emphasis different aspects of that tradition, or do some things differently.   Nor does a group want to hear “well in my other Golden Dawn order we insist on the [insert teaching here].”  
Honestly I do not believe it is possible to be a member of two different groups anyway as the workload should make it impossible. 

Does the group allow you to skip grades on the basis of your previous experience?

This is a trick to try and establish an Order as quickly and widely as possible.  The premise is that the Order will acknowledge the grades of the leaders of a forming group so that they can form a new order under their banner.    However anyone with common sense will realise that they are not getting anything from the Order that they are joining.  True they might have access to intellectual training, but they will not have experienced what the magic order is supposed to be doing!    As an idea it only works on idiots who like the idea of holding high grades in an order, preferably without doing any work for them (cough masonic types).    When you join an order, you start at the lowest level of that group and then you let it do its magic on you.  You do not do it to form another group for them, or just to have a flashy badge.   Never join an order that allows you to take several grade initiations in the same day or in a short period of time.  They do not understand how the grade system works and you will not get anything out of it.

Does a group accept you without meeting you or pay for you to visit them to be initiated?

If you meet someone you can know much more about them and know if they are going to fit into your group mind and if they are going to make it.  You cannot tell that over a Skype call, even if you have the video chat on.  The fact that a group skips this important meeting (and some even insist you turn up at several of their public meetings first) indicates they do not really care if you fit or not.  Paying for someone to travel to a place to be initiated smacks at desperation. 

Does a group offer to give you status on the basis of an “astral initiation.”

Astral initiation takes place at a high level when the person is experienced enough to go out of their body to receive it.   It is rarely given by a physical being, and only in unusual circumstances.
Lower grade initiations cannot be performed magically, because the candidate needs to experience certain things psychologically and physically.  I was fairly open minded about the idea of astral initiation at this level but I heard too many stories which showed it to be bogus. The technique involved telling the candidate to sit passively at the time of the initiation while a group of officers initiated a talisman (or astrological chart) with their name on it.   One of the tests for an Astral initiation is that the candidate picks up images or feelings from the rite.  I have not met anyone who has come up with anything which compares to a 0=0 experience.
Astral initiation performed in this manner is designed to raise funds from distant members and enable training.  There are much better techniques than passive “astral initiation” which can have a dramatic effect on the candidate, however the groups that use them always insist on a future physical initiation.

Are the leaders who interview you too young?

I started magic when I was 17 and studied really hard at it for many years.  I do not think I really understood anything until my 30s and started to teach when I was in my late-30s,  I have become a lot better since my 40s. 
 My mid-twenties were spent cramming knowledge and dealing with the fall out, I was also trying to build my career.   I cannot see how anyone under the age of 30 can be an esoteric teacher.  You can know enough intellectually in your 20s, perhaps, but you certainly cannot pull in the magic.  Even Jesus, who was supposed to be a prodigy (and apparently the Son of God) did not start teaching until he was 30. 
In your 20s you think that running an occult group is important.  In fact we find that too many younger members think that this is a priority.   Occult leaders should have their arms twisted before they form a group because it gets in the way of real work.  MOAA has enough work in it to last a lifetime, pissing around worrying about people forgetting to bring their red socks to rituals is not something a sensible person would want – unless they are too young, arrogant, and have not had enough magical experience.

Does the group attack others?

Good esoteric groups do not publically attack others.  Even a saint loses their temper in the presence of an internet troll (which is why some good teachers refuse to have an internet presence) and this does not usually mean there is something wrong with them.  As a rule of thumb, the groups that are being attacked, are usually the ones that are doing something, those who are doing the attacking have nothing to offer.  There are some exceptions.

 One group, fortunately disbanded, had an initiation test for its adepts.  This involved either attacking an ex-member’s property or “supporting the order” by setting up webpages defaming rival groups.  There was an inner circle within this group which was dedicated to making magic attacks against those who the leadership thought were trying to attack them.
Real occult orders get on with other occult orders.  They accept that they are different and are happy with that.

Does the group tell you what other similar groups do?

I have heard lots of things that apparently MOAA does from people who have talked to other groups.  I find it fascinating that they claim to know what happens in our rituals.  I don’t know (or care) what they do, so how can they know what is happening in ours?  The latest one is that Nick Farrell has “changed everything” and that the godform of the Hierophant is apparently Hermes!  It is no secret that MOAA has a Heirophant which uses an Osiris godform (when he is sitting down) just like 99 per cent of the Golden Dawn orders out there (the Open Source Order which uses a different inner structure).  All groups (even those who claim to be fundamentalist GD) have changed something.  This is because even if you had the original scripts of the GD, you would have no idea how those rituals were performed.  Nor do you have any idea how much modern thinking has corrupted that teaching. Generally saying that another group is “doing it wrong” when you can’t be certain what they do, means you are trying to convince people that your way is the only way.

Top 10 signs that your Magical Order is dead

A magical group is something that has a life of its own, it is not simply the quality of the teachings but also the drive of the members that are currently in place.  Builders of the Adytum for example started out as a vibrant group with two very good spiritual teachers – the last died in the 1960s.  It could have continued were it not for the actions of Will Chesterman, who with the best motivations, froze the Order so it focused on a worship of founder Paul Case and his successor Anne Davies.  In Chesterman’s view, the teaching of BOTA stopped with Davies death and all that needed to be done was preservation.   In some ways he might have been right, BOTA did survive, but it also imploded after his death.  Chesterman’s problem was that BOTA stopped making adepts, as those who showed any talent were usually at odds with him.  As a result another wave of non-entities climbed up the ladder of BOTA with no knowledge of magic but with a desire for political power.  They kicked out Chesterman’s wife Joyce from the temple she and her husband had put their life savings into and took control for themselves.    They also deleted all reference to Chesterman from their website.  The European BOTA schismed off and did its own thing.     
This list which follows gives you signs that your group is no longer functioning as it should and has probably lost its spiritual connection.  It is not about BOTA, although there are some elements of what I learnt from that group in my list.  No doubt there are others.  My theory is that the spiritual connection within each group looks at an order and decides that it is finished.   It walks away but it takes a while for the group to die.
      The group fails to produce adepts. 
Systems of teaching which have worked in the past no longer create the right circumstances to build a magician. The systems have become either obsolete with age, or no longer reflect the society that created them.  Adepts are always those who are at the cutting edge of development.  They might use “older systems” but their approach will always be state of the art.   If a system does not encourage the development of adepts then the spiritual connection will wither.  It is important to point out that in any given magical order the percentage of adepts will always be small.  For every 100 that go through a school the number of people who make it their life will be about one or two per cent.  But if you can’t spot one or two people who know what they are doing in a group any contact is unlikely to be interested.

Teaching or ritual systems are not evolving

It is common to think that there is a perfect form of teaching, or that the founders of a system really understood it.  If this were the case the original Golden Dawn would have been better than the later versions such as the Whare Ra and AO.  The original Golden Dawn was much closer to modern co-masonry.  It was adapted by the founders to add in more magical elements and the results were spectacular.  The final break-up of the Golden Dawn was inevitable not because it failed, but because adepts were taking it into different directions. The fact that such teaching evolves bothers those who want the reassurance of a fundamentalist approach. Fundamentalist systems can be learned and be “correct” yet things that develop cannot be.   Fundamentalism, for all its cries of “purity of the system” are doomed.  The goal of magic is to evolve, fundamentalism locks everything into a past that never was.
3.       Teaching is considered “too powerful” and moved to the Higher Orders.
This happened in both Whare Ra, AO and  Inner Light.  Some material which had been given out to lower order members was suddenly bumped up to the adept grades.  This was partly because the elderly chiefs did not know how to teach the material and were fed up with answering tricky questions about it.   The converse of this is when Inner Order teaching leak downwards because people do not realise how powerful it is.  The latter is rarer but there are cases of GD documents which have been given out to the riff-raff because Chiefs thought it was unimportant, or believed that it should really be taught at that level.
4.       An order makes its founders into Gods or Goddesses
One of the most over worshipped founders of any magic order
 next  to Christianity.
If you are incompetent as a leader, you bolster the reputations of the chiefs and founders of the order.  In doing so the order creates a mythical legacy which its chiefs inherit by virtue of holding the job themselves.    It also means that you can get rid of tricky members by claiming that they do not honour the teachings of the founders enough and their removal or punishment is justified.  In fact no teacher ever wrote anything perfect and some of the so called Gods and Goddesses of the old orders were deficit in a lot of areas.  Anne Davies had a habit of making up tall stories which were believed by many, Paul Foster Case did not really want to run a Magical Order and prefered running a Positive Thought correspondence course that was Tarot based. No one has ever questioned Mather’s ritual genius either.
      There is a culture of yes-people around the leadership.
Too many Yes men is bad for for a group… particularly
It is ok to disagree with the leader, just so long as you accept you are getting something out of the order.  Hating the leader is probably a sign of your own particular issues.  However if a leadership builds up a culture of yes-people about them, elevates people who are not worthy to give them seniority then the order is on the way out.  What happens is that the leader might be an adept, but if they are not there, these non-people will take over, usually after a particularly messy battle for dominance.   If the order is based on grade rather than magical ability,  the chief is devaluing the level of the group to preserve their own position.   Another thing to watch are promotions on the basis of “services rendered” to the chief.  This can be sexual, free professional advice, anything really.  Each grade must be demonstrated on the basis of magical ability and nothing else.
6.       There are issues about the succession to the current leadership.
It is the duty of every chief to have a clear successor, who is usually an adept who can continue the work of the order.  This is particularly important to long established Orders.  If the work is focused on the chief, which sometimes happens, then the order closes.   However if the group is to continue the successor is obvious and publically recognised to make sure that any transition is smooth.  An order is on its way out when it cannot manage this or encourages senior people to fight for the top job.  Succession is always based on the person’s magical ability and their contact with the same spirit behind the order.  Politics cannot enter into it.
7.    The teaching group stops initiating or bringing in new worthy people.
Orders like those of the Golden Dawn exist to train people.  Sometimes it is necessary for the group mind not to take people.  However some groups end up never taking new people at all.  This is what happened at Whare Ra and was one of the given reasons for the group to fold.  The Bristol Temple was theoretically running until the 1970s but had not initiated anyone since the 1960s.   Magically that was the day it died.  An order is like a light house on the astral.  If it is not attracting people to it then there is something wrong.  It means its spiritual energy is not enough.  If the only people that can be attracted to a group who are really only there for social reasons or other pointless reasons then that is also a sign. Another sign is the membership becomes too old and is unable to attract young blood.

 No one writes any new teaching or brings about any more research

It is the duty of a chief of the order to encourage people to write and produce new teaching and research for experimentation.  A student might be able to survive on the view point of one person, but an order needs the ideas of many to keep it vibrant.  Each student has a duty to make the system their own and to share their ideas with others.  The chief’s job is to make sure that people do not stray too far off the path or go insane.
9.       The group becomes more interested in the mundane.
When a group becomes more established it can sometimes end up owning property.  Some have even ended up paying their teachers’ salaries.   But what also happens is that the group becomes more interested in the material side of running the order than they do the actual work itself.  Once a group spends more time working out which plumber to sub-contract out too than the ritual they need to perform next, it is time to quit.  Gossip is always part of an esoteric group, it seems to come with the territory.  But after a while it starts to become the only reason why some people are showing up.  One group I know was obsessed with its own made up history and spent a lot of time and energy finding historical proof that it had a long lineage dating back to the Middle Ages.  This is also when politics in an Order become more important than anything else.
         People forget how to do the magic.
Over the years a body of knowledge about how a ritual, or initiation works is built up.   If for some reason the group starts to forget that it is on its way out.  A sign comes about when someone says “lets not bother with doing the godforms” or “let’s not invoke this godform, I can never pronounce it.” Another sign is when a ritual is performed perfectly and fails to get the slightest inkling of power.   It is like you can clap and hear an echo.  Sometimes a group can pull itself back from this particular point, but more often they do not.  What happens soon after is that any sense of contact with the Inner melts.