What I learnt about magic from playing D&D

I was one of the first to play D&D when it arrived at my wargames club. I was not into magic or occultism then, and I have not played for many years. However there were some concepts that D&D had which are exactly how the Divine Self ineracts with the magician.

For those who have never played, you dice up a character and play it in an imaginary world which is controlled by a dungeon master. The characters are aiming to become heroes in these imaginary worlds. I realised that the relationship between the player and their character is the same as that of the higher self. In a good game, you experience the same loss of self and get so involved in your character that it becomes real.

Here are the lessons:

The Higher Self wants characters: There is a species of roleplayer who just like fighting things, but after a while they realise that just rolling dice is dull. What they end up talking about are characters which are funny, unusual, or do things in an interesting way. There are few roleplayers who would chose to have a character whose sole goal is to settle down, have a few kids and a mortgage. I have never seen a roleplaying game where the highpoint of a character’s life was the arrival of a flatscreen television. The Higher Self wants a life for their character it can bore telling uninterested other higher selves about.

The best lives are when you throw out the rulebook: Most of the great campaigns hardly used the rulebook. The DM used it for dicing up characters, but we forgot about a lot of things that many D&D rule lawyers considered vital.

The Higher Self wants its character to live: There is a occult teaching that the higher self withdraws from life when it becomes too old or inflexible to do anything useful. However in D&D I did not lose interest in characters in long term campaigns who aged or saw their stats shrink. In fact they became more interesting because age allowed them to play out more details.

Chance is a god which allows the story to change: A life narrative flows in the general direction of the fates, but what spices up the story are random events. One of the more interesting adventures involved the party being stalked by a monster which we never saw, but was keen to mess with our heads. It was an adventure which was a random wandering monster encounter that had nothing to do with the main quest. But chance is what makes a life which was otherwise dull or set on tracks different and interesting.

Magicians really are priests: One of the weak points of D&D was that the “magic users” did not reflect the way magic really worked. They represented the fantasy magician. However, to get a more accurate picture you needed to play a priest. Magic is a religious/philosophical thing.

Characters reflect an aspect of the Higher Self: No matter what people say, a D&D character is rehearsing some aspect of the player. It might be wish fulfilment or some aspect of them they are unaware of but it can be found with some thought. My favourite character was a Druid, which if I think about was modelled on Catweasel. He was not particularly ecologically friendly but he was an eccentric academic who collected specimens of plants and animals with the aim of getting them to grow in other parts of the world. I am not an academic but might have liked to have been.

Your life is only as good as the God you follow: In D&D the Dungeon master is God. Bad DM’s really were a waste of an afternoon, but really good ones took you into a realistic world which you could believe in. In the real world we adopt “Gods” which build our lives for us. They might not be actual gods but they shape our reality. A good god allows a story to develop and does not kill you off because you guessed the combination to the treasure room without fighting your way through an army of trouble to get the combination which was tattooed on his dead liche’s arm.  The DMs who insist on figures, mapping and dungeon layouts are variants of this.  If you spend all your time on these sorts of rules you end up restricting your players imaginations too much. This is why I think that any Creator God would have stood back and watched and learned rather than getting too involved in the universe it created.

In fantasy worlds everyone is a pagan: While this not completely true, but those who play Christians, Jews, or Muslims only have fun when they are a parody. I had great fun playing a Pentecostalist Cleric (complete with snake) who insisted that part of healing spells was to confess sin and have it exercised. “I only need a 1D6 healing spell” “Renounce Satan first and pray that you are worthy for the healing of GEESUS.” That was when I was still a born again Christian.

Black and white world views don’t work: In the real world we like to portray people as being good and evil. In D&D it is literally possible to be it. The alignment systems are set and you can get punished if you do not play your alignment. Evil characters are usually played by kids who think that “being evil” is stealing from the party or murdering. But the thing is that they are not particularly evil, they just annoying. The same thing applies to Lawful Good characters, many of whom spend most of their time trying to get around the stiff criteria they have set for themselves. Fun exists in flexibility and pure good and evil characters become dull stereotypes quickly. Some DMs get around this problem by making alignment necessary for characters like paladins. I played a “good” assassin once who agonised about killing people and felt really guilty about it. He would only kill those who had done something wrong and even then would agonise about it.

Mr and Mrs Average can still be heroes: I ran a campaign once where the characters were all “average” (We called it the Smith campaign). The fighters were only slightly stronger than normal people. It favoured those with natural skills like thieves, magicians and clerics, but their skills were limited by their averageness. What was funny though was although the fights lasted longer, they were a lot fewer. The adventures still happened, because they always do.

Cracking the Ritual of the Pentagram

There has never been a more abused and misunderstood ritual than the Golden Dawn’s Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram (LRP). Along with the Cabbalistic Cross, it has been kidnapped by others who have unintelligently hammered it into their own traditions. Even though it is included in almost every occult handbook in the Western Mystery Tradition, few have tried to define what it actually does or look at it in context of the Golden Dawn tradition.

Before we start, let us make this clear. The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram has about as much to do with elemental magic as a packet of peanuts has to do with the workings of poetry of William Topaz McGonagall. As we will see, this myth has come about because of a fundamental lack of understanding about the Golden Dawn and how it worked. The failure to understand the depth and power of this simple ritual has lead many armchair occultists to develop ‘improved’ versions. While these improved versions might ‘work’ within their own traditions, they do not work within the context of the Golden Dawn system.

The LRP and the Golden Dawn
The LRP was handed out to those who joined the Order at the 0=0 grade. It was a fairly basic ritual which was the only form of practical magic that anyone in the outer order was allowed to perform. In the early Golden Dawn, the inner order with its emphasis on elemental pentagrams, had not been developed. True, elemental pentagrams were drawn by the Heirophant in the elemental grades but few would have been aware that this was happening. Even if they were aware, any candidate would not see a
“Earth pentagram”.

To an innocent candidate, the pentagram in the LRP was a complete, classic magical sign’ that was drawn in four directions by the operator. Also the mindset of the order and the people who went through it, was you did what you were told. Only the very stupid would NOT realise that the angels were Archangels but the impact of what a six-rayed star being between the columns was, would have passed most by. As for colour, the GD was extremely protective of the use of colour in the outer order and it is extremely likely that the whole operation was monochromatic. It was only in the inner order, when this was developed, that colour became particularly important.

Some of this material was leaked out into the outer order. For example we find that in the later Whare Ra temple 0=0s were given black cards with the divine name and the pentagram in colour to stare at to add their visualisation of the ritual.

We also know that it is impossible for the LRP to be linked to any elements because it lacks a spirit pentagram as part of the rite. It would be an anathema to the GD’s rule of always “invoking the highest first” before doing any working not to have included a spirit pentagram first. When elemental pentagrams are used, they have to be accompanied by a spirit pentagram something which is clearly lacking in the LRP.

The first reference to an LRP pentagram being used in an exorcism within the GD is in Flying Roll XXXIV where Brodie Innes uses a pentagram to deal with an Earth elemental which was bringing sickness to his wife. However, on examination of the case, Innes does not perform an LRP at all and instead invokes the elemental to give it form before blasting it. Innes was also an adept at that point and well capable of using the full versions of the pentagrams.

Another case is recorded in Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defence where she draws a pen- tagram between her and an astral creature and vibrates a divine name. Again nothing like the LRP , although it shows similarities. Later in her book, she gives a watered down version of the LRP as a tool for exorcism but strips it of a lot of its GD symbolism.

Much of the alchemical and exorcism attributions for the LRP seem to have come from Aleister Crowley. While it is possible that he got these from Bennett or Mathers, it is also likely he got them from his own meditation. However, Crowley’s use of the LRP forced him to make some changes to the function of the Rose Cross Ritual. It is from him (and later Dion Fortune) that we get the idea that pentagrams light you up on the astral, whereas the Rose Cross Ritual keeps you nicely incognito.

By the time Israel Regardie appeared on the scene, these attributions were being adopted at least outside the existing GD.

The Symbol of the Pentagram
The pentagram is associated with the planet Venus, because when viewed from Earth, successive inferior conjunctions of the planet plot a nearly perfect pentagram shape around the zodiac every eight years. This is important when you consider that entry to the vault of Christian Rosenkreuz is through the Venus wall.
Another attribution is its association with the five-pointed star of Geburah. In this guise the pentagram is showing humanity’s ability to control things and spirits because of its five-fold nature. Since most of the universe is populated by elemental or pure spiritual beings, the fact that a human is a mixture of both gives them considerable protection and power. But as far as occultists are concerned, the pentagram is a symbol of a perfected human being. It is a symbol of spirit ruling over the elemental nature.

The Primary Function of the LRP
Within the Golden Dawn there were several advantages to making a junior person learn the LRP . Firstly, it would teach them how to vibrate names and make correct ritual gestures and visualisation. The LRP also works within the framework of what should be carried out within the outer order. That is, the integration of spiritual energy within all aspects of daily life and a balancing of the personality. The use of a regular ritual has been applied in many religions as a method of rooting the spiritual within the mundane. But once students started doing the ritual, often they would wonder what it was all about and start to look at the symbolism involved and might look particularly at the meaning of the pentagram, which was a symbol of perfected man and a declaration of the dominion of spirit over the elemental nature.

However, there is more to it than that. There were magical meanings held within the ritual which linked it to the student’s 0=0 initiation and to an extent the whole of the first order work.
The idea was to require the operator to subconsciously repeat the work of the outer or- der in the microcosm of the candidate on a daily basis. This becomes the work of the outer order until the person becomes the completed pentagram at portal. In a nutshell, the commonly used LRP has the operator/candidate standing in the centre of the uni- verse, between two pillars, with his or her higher self within the heart centre, flanked by four archangels and on all sides a symbol of the dominion of spirit. This is sending a powerful message to the unconscious mind that they are a channel for their spiritual selves. This is exactly the message that the candidate is given through the 0=0 cere- mony, the realisation of what it means is also glimpsed in the 2=9, when the candidate first sees the completed pentagram in the East.

In other words, what we are seeing with the LRP is not just a clearing exercise, or even an elemental balancing rite but a re-enforcement of the rest of the grade work of the outer order. It is activating the whole of the order in the Sphere of Sensation of the candidate.

The Sphere of Sensation
It is easier to understand the function of the banishing ritual when you look at the Golden Dawn’s idea of the Sphere of Sensation. The concept of the sphere is mentioned in several documents, mostly related to scrying and the Z documents, where it is a part of the 0=0 initiation ceremony. There is much that is original in the idea, which is explained in the document ‘Macrocosm and Man’ yet the idea appears undeveloped.

The idea of a Sphere of Sensation works as a canvas on which an auric energy system can be painted. Brodie Innes says in Flying Roll XXV that the Sphere of Sensation is an egg-shaped aura around the body which made out of ‘Akasha’. Akasha is an Eastern term meaning ‘Ether’ and in context the statement means that it is made of lower forms of ‘spirit’. In the pre-Einstein physics, ether was the unseen energy that held the universe together. Although you could not see it, it was still a semi-physical force. In the Indian philosophy which influenced the Golden Dawn, Akasha was also the spirit that bound together the four elements. When Brodie Innes was saying that the Sphere of Sensation was Akasha, he was saying that it was made of an unseen spiritual energy. However, Akasha has some other abilities, which Brodie Innes was hinting at.

It is the memory of the Mind of God and it holds everything in reflection. One drop of Akasha contains a reflection of everything seen, unseen, past and present. He would say that the Sphere of Sensation is “as the Microcosm and the Universe as the Macrocosm; regarding the former as a reflection in miniature of the latter, as in a grass field full of dewdrops each drop might present a perfect tiny image of trees and mountains, the sky, clouds, the sun and the stars.” In other words, it is like a hologram of the universe that can be cut multiple times and still contain a complete likeness of the original. This is a Microcosmic universe and is built around symbols that the individual has in their unconscious mind and is made out of the patterns of their material life.

The GD students built the tree of life within their sphere of sensation over a period of time and used its spheres rather than those of the eastern chakras. Brodie Innes at- tempted to link the Sphere of Sensation to what is called the Aura, and from that point to the complex tantric work of the East. Like many good theosophists, he believed that India contained much useful magical information which could be taken at face value as being superior to that in the West. He was only partly successful because his efforts were not required to get the sphere of sensation working.

Most Hindu or tantric experts would tell you that the aura of the east with its chakras is a thought-form construction exactly like the Sphere of Sensation and not meant to be taken literally either. It would be better to use a symbol that is more closely related to Western symbolism like cabbalistic the Tree of Life which was what the GD actually did.

All this information would not be known to the outer order candidate. They would not even hear about the Sphere of Sensation until they reached the 5=6 grade. However this did not mean that their own sphere of sensation had not been orientated to this particular format. Mathers, in his Z2 instructions, tells the officers that they must visualise the candidate’s sphere of sensation as having these pillars within them. As the candidate comes into the temple, they are supposed to have a dark and cloudy Sphere of Sensation which becomes clearer at each purification and consecration.

The number of purification and consecrations is the same as the number of black and white pillars in the aura (The Middle Pillar being activated by the balanced light of the Supernal Triangle). The fourth and final consecration is important from the point of view of the LRP . There, the candidate is standing between the pillars his or her hands on each one, in an exact mirroring of the the pillars in the Sphere of Sensation.

In the Golden Dawn, whenever you see pillars, they represent some form of gateway. In her private articles for the Society of Inner Light, Dion Fortune hinted that the two pillars in front represented the future while those behind represented the past, while the gate- way formed on the right and left hand, and the Middle Pillar are the present.

So what you are looking at when you look straight ahead is your future. Symbols that you might see in your own Sphere of Sensation are those that are gearing up to actually manifest. Those behind you are what have already gone. Symbols close to you are the those which are with you now.

To understand the concept of how the Sphere works and communicates it is important to look at the Neo-Platonist idea of mind and symbols. The Neo-Platonists believed that all things are the products of a divine mind and the only way that an object can be created is by using material or by reproduction. The One Thing can do neither because it is infinite so it cannot take any outside source and can only make its universe in its mind. Once you realise the universe is mind and works in the same way as your own (which is a reflection of the universe) then you can use it to bring about change.

As United States comic Bill Hicks summed up how the Universal Mind worked as part of his act: “We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.”

The Universal Mind does not talk in words as such. It uses symbols. A word is a symbol, but it only generally means one thing. A real symbol means lots of things on many different levels.

Likewise, the Sphere of Sensation operates on symbols, which it uses a bit like a com- puter language to program the environment. It takes Macrocosmic symbols and con- verts them into personal ones. These reflect back on the Nephesch and the physical body. Our Spiritual side also communicates with us through the Sphere of Sensation using symbols.

The Sphere of Sensation and its Relationship to the LRP

We are born facing the wrong way. Our loyal servant, our Sphere of Sensation shows us a distorted vision of the Universe. Our lives are based on incorrect perceptions founded on clouded understandings of the symbols. We often see symbols but can only see them “in a glass, darkly”. Soon optimism gives way to depression, the small becomes large and our view becomes narrow and clouded. In addition, people form links with others through shared magnetism and corrupted symbols. Their Spheres of Sensation become linked and Akashic energy becomes depleted. As people age, they become more fixed and are unable to see the new Universe which is being born around them. Instead they either keep symbols of their own universe, or just live their lives as they always have done.

In such circumstances, the Higher Aspects of the personality lose their ability to influence the Sphere of Sensation and the person finally dies.

The LRP makes changes to the Sphere of Sensation so that the person gradually devel- ops. It does not so much do this by banishing, as it does by placing powerful symbols within the sphere of sensation which become enforced over a period of time.

First you perform the Cabbalistic Cross. This draws down power from the crown to the feet. It balances and energises the sphere for more important work. It also opens the Tiphareth centre to control the operation.

Next you draw a pentagram between the pillars of the sphere of sensation in front of you. You vibrate the name YHVH, which means “I am what I am” again aspirational. In other words, you are placing the symbol of the pentagram into your own future and energising it with your own will. You are looking towards your own portal ceremony where the completed pentagram is unveiled for the first time.

The YHVH name is important because you are talking about integrating the elements under the power of spirit.

When we draw the pentagram on the right hand, we are making a statement of who we are ‘now’. The divine name here is Adonai, which means Lord. We are saying that we are rulers of ourselves.

Now the operator turns around again and is placing a pentagrams over their past and saying the name associated with YHVH, EHVH. This means “I am what I will be.” The operator is looking at their own past and saying “I am not trapped by my past, I am going to be something better”. You will note that this name is in this position because the operator at that moment has his or her back to the future.

The last pentagram is placed between the pillars of the left hand. This represents the gateway to the North which is connected to the Earth. But again it is also the now. The left-hand gateway leads to the ‘now’ of the outside world, the right hand gateway leads to the inner kingdom.

The divine name here is Agla (Mighty art thou Lord of the Earth). What is being said here is that the operator is the ruler of the Earth. Not the planet, but our own personal Earth. Notice that the person has their back to the right-handed pentagram where they are talking about being Lord of their own Inner Kingdom. Now they are claiming that what they see is a product of their own rulership.

The Archangels in the LRP

The next part of the ritual sees the placement of the Archangels. Most people see the Archangels as wearing their elemental badges. Alternatively they are just seen in the light of the Jewish child’s bed-time prayer. It is important to look at who these Archangels are within the GD system.

Before me Raphael
Before me refers to the future. Raphael means “God has healed”. We are asking that God will heal us and guide us. He is also the Sun angel in the Western Mystery Tradition and therefore the initiator into Tiphareth (the 5=6).

Behind me is Gabriel
This refers to the past. Gabriel is the ruler of the Moon. We are making him the guardian of our unconscious mind and preventing our past from destroying ourselves either now or in future. His name “God is my Strength” tells us to build our life not on our past but on the foundation of God.

To my Right-Hand Michael
Michael means “who is as God”. He gives us the image of our inner Kingdom as matching that of heaven.

To my left-hand Uriel
Uriel was the Angel of the Mysteries. His name means ‘Fire of God’ by placing him as the Guardian of Gate of the Earth we are allowing the Earth to be our teacher. The “Fire of God” is the serpent force represented by the staff of the Kerux and his function in the LRP is similar.

The next part of the LRP the operator says a phrase that only makes sense when you see it in terms of sphere of sensation with its four pillars.

Between the pillars is the six-rayed star

The six-rayed star refers to Tiphareth and the Middle Pillar. Until now, the operator has not activated the Middle Pillar and in so doing causes the magnetic balance of the four pillars to come into harmony. Once in harmony, you are bringing the light of spirit into the heart centre of the Sphere of Sensation using the symbol of the Hexagram. This causes the Sphere of Sensation to glow with integrated power, just like the candidate in the 0=0 ritual does when they have received the fourth and final consecration.

The LRP to Protect a Working
The insistence on the LRP before ritual, plus the name itself, implies that the LRP has a hygienic effect and can be used to create sacred space. It does this in two ways. The first is by elevating the consciousness of the operator so that they are tuned into the symbols that were placed in their sphere of sensation during their 0=0 ceremony.

The second method involves a physical change in the environment occupied by the sphere of sensation. The sphere of sensation is spiritualised and expanded to the four quarters. The spiritualised sphere produces a high range energy hum. This hum pre- vents lower astral beings which work on a lower spiritual note (which cause most of the problems in ceremonial magic) from entering the space.

The Sphere of Sensation is projected outwards in a similar fashion to what it was during the 0=0 rite where the candidate has his sphere of sensation magically stretched to the same sub-quarters represented by the pillars in the Sphere of Sensation. In the 0=0 these points are represented by the invisible stations of the Sons of Horus.

When you perform the LRP on an area before a ritual you are projecting your Sphere of Sensation to these sub-quarters. In most GD groups, this task is performed by the Heireus and it is not the officer’s Sphere of Sensation that is stretched but that of his God- form. Most of the time it will be whoever is performing the ritual who will expand their Sphere of Sensation for the purposes of a banishing.

Effects of the LRP
Over the years many people both inside the Golden Dawn and outside it have reported beneficial effects caused by the regular performance of the LRP.

These effects range from clearing out of negative behaviour patterns to actual spiritual awakening and individualisation. Based on the concept of the Sphere of Sensation, it is possible that these effects can happen.

The regular placing of symbols in the Sphere of Sensation of a willing person will slowly change their reality. The unconscious knowledge that their past, present and future are all under their own control, moves them from being a victim in life to a magi- cian of power. Negative symbols of powerlessness and weakness are slowly replaced with that image of occult power, the pentagram.

The symbolic disconnection from spiritual reality is replaced with positive symbols enabling the higher aspects of the self to draw close. It is this effect more than others which makes the LRP a vital part of the daily routine of anyone using the tradition of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

 

This article was posted in the now defunct Hermetic Virtues.  Originally written when I still thought it was all about banishing I have tweaked it a bit.  It still deserves an airing. 

Real pagans cannot hate monotheism

As thought experiment I tried to reconstruct the Golden Dawn ritual with the Christianity removed. I got a few minutes into the process and realised it was totally pointless. The rituals had very successfully created a pagan ritual which could be interpreted in a Christian or pagan way depending on who was doing it.

It is really common amongst pagan communities to slag off the monotheist religions – Christianity, Jewish and Islam.  Normally this is a soft target because paganism is often a rebellion against the childhood religion, which is often monotheist, or a psychological projection of a father figure on a male god.

Lately I have been reading an academic book Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity by Polymnia Athanassiadi, which turns a lot of this hatred on its head. Athanassiadi shows how while the pagans had many gods they tended towards a monotheism which was remarkably similar to the Christian and Jewish religions. By the second century, the three religions looked remarkably similar.

All had a supreme god which created the world and then left the running of it to lesser beings. The pagans said these were gods and daemons; Christians said they were angels and saints (and later demons); and Jews said angels (and to a lesser extent demons).

The idea that Christians were better because they were monotheist and the pagans were polytheist was basically a successful Christian propaganda exercise which was never really countered until the 20th century.

Early Christians and Jews admitted that doctrinally there were other Gods, because the bible was full of references to them. They just believed that their god was superior. Later they would say that these pagan gods were demons, but in Late Antiquity that was a bit of a stretch.

All this explains why in Rome in the first and second century it was common for “pagans” to adopt have Christian and Jewish religious symbols in their altars. Cynics have said that they were hedging their bets, but the reality is that they felt free to worship those similar pantheons alongside their own.

Some of this was because of the eclectic nature of pagan religion. The Hellenes, which broadly covered the Romans and Greeks and all they conquered, saw all religions as aspects of their own. So Amon in Egypt was Jupiter as was YHVH of the Jews (although some Romans thought they worshipped Saturn). Jesus could be Osiris, Adonis, Antonis or any number of redemptive gods just as he was worshipped by the Christians. Rome was full of these cults and they only ever fell foul of the Hellene authorities if they advocated illegal acts.

So, a modern Hellene to be truly authentic, has to see Christianity as another expression of their own religion. They don’t need to follow it, but equally they can’t hate it without disconnecting themselves from their own religion. How can you claim to follow Aphrodite but hate the Magdalene; dedicate yourself to Isis but think the Marians are silly; Be excited by Set the God of the Deserts but say that Muslims follow a religion of hate?

In Antiquity, pagan writers moaned that Christianity had taken the best bits of their own religion and merged it into their own. They are not difficult to spot and not even the protestant and catholic counter-reformations thought to remove these pagan elements which had become the cornerstone of their religion.

So what if Christians, Jews, or Muslims think that their God is the only one. There were some pagans who thought their god was the “right one” too. But the reality is all gods are the same – it makes no difference you call it IAO, Jupiter, Zeus, YHVH or Allah they are all the same thing.

The similarities can be seen when we start to play with the religious texts to change just the names of the gods or symbols that identify which religion they belong.

The earth is Zeus, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of Olympus?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in evil daemons
or make a false oath.
They will receive blessing from Zeus
and vindication from Zeus Sotar.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Homer
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
Zeus strong and mighty,
Zeus mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
Zeus Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

————–
Awaken to me Imperishable God
All seeing Lord
You make the course of my life radiant
You weigh me down with good things
You purify me with your law
Give me your hand and show me as one in need
You created the Earth and Bones and all flesh
All spirit and established the sea and suspended the heavens
You separated the light from the darkness
You are the supreme God who lawfully administers all things
With your winds bring me to the harbour of piety
Eternal, God of Gods, Lord of the Angels
Invariable Lord of the Ages
Hear my psalm

The first one is a Psalm of David with a few words changed that turn it into a prayer to Zeus The second one is a pagan prayer to Zeus which has been changed to a Christian/Jewish psalm. If you can’t spot the difference without knowing either prayer you might get my point. I chose them because they already say similar things.

But really if a pagan sees their fellow monotheists as essentially expressing similar systems, there is no conflict. Sure they might hate us, but really that is their problem not an issue we have with them or their god, or system.

Star magic in the Iliad

The Homeric Catalogue of Ships has been a puzzle for studying the Iliad since antiquity. The catalogue lists those who took part in the siege of Troy and where they came from.

The catalogue appears to be slapped into Book II with no plain reason and while Homer wrote it, it was not his best bit. Some early editions of the Iliad drop the Catalogue of Ships completely, others leave it in a box by itself.

Cynics have said that the list was just a crowd-pleasing list of places. A bit like a rock star screaming “It’s great to be back in Scunthorpe again” so that the poet’s audience may see their region mentioned in the poem. In fact, it was believed that at Athens was inserted into the catalogue in antiquity during the rulership of Solon.

All that though was Edna Leigh came up with a spectacular theory which turned the whole poem on its head. She argued that the poem drew astronomical information with the heroes being stars or constellations. Her work was published in Homer’s Secret Iliad published after her death by Florence and Kenneth Wood and makes for a compelling if incomplete argument. Leigh’s theory explains some of the stranger aspects of the poem by fitting them into astrological explanations.

The Catalogue of Ships are each of the constellations and the heroes mentioned are the stars. Achilles is Sirius leading the constellation of Canis Major, who chases Hector, as Orion across the sky before killing him. (The theory is detailed and you should really read the book as there is much more to it.) Leigh could find astrological events which fitted the poem and use it to calculate the correct dates for the equinoxes and solstices, the changes in the pole star, and the disappearance of Sirius for a time below the horizon. It is one of those things that once you have read it, you can’t get the concept out of your mind.

However, there are some problems with the theory. While I think, it is completely accurate, it misses because it motivations are entirely modern. It is based on the idea that a poet took two thousand years of astrological data and made them into a magic poem to help him remember, this data was later written down.

But a modern scientific approach ignores the historical and cultural context. If the data covers such a long period of oral history then this becomes crucial. While Edna Leigh might not think that the stars were actual heroes and the planets were gods, then Homer certainly did. It might be that Homer’s Illiad was a muse inspired version of magical data collected by watching the night’s sky, but that was only part of it.

Magical tradition makes it very important to contact Zodiacal forces and what Homer would have done is created a system of star magic to do it. The concept that Gods and men became stars is a very important part of human thought. In fact,in some esoteric circles it is still consisted a starter. The idea being that when a soul has learnt all it can from the Solar Logos it evolves to become a logos of its own solar system.

Later magic placed Angels or gods at the centre of these constellations, but, if Leigh is correct, Homer placed Ancient Heroes, or the souls of dead ancestors at the centre of his. The night’s sky then was a cinema telling a fragment of one great story.

To re-create this system of magic we need to rethink our twee concept of ancestors as being those of our dead grandparents, but something deeper and more powerful. Homer places every tribe of humanity into 45 constellations, each ruled by a heroic ancestor. If these were the 45 original tribes of the Indo-European people as they migrated across the planet, or something even bigger, such as the division of all humans into 45 constellations, is a subject for experimentation.

But it would suggest that the 12 signs of the zodiac are 12 heroes who are important by they are on the ecliptic. A way of seeing them would be the rulers of humanity. That is not underplaying the others’ importance, but gives a starting point to fusing this concept with more modern magic. What sticks in my mind is that these energies are like those of the Arthurian Knights so this is a Homeric Round Table.

Here is the list of the 12 heroes of the constellations.

Leo Agamemnon
Scorpio: Menelaus
Libra: Helen*
Cancer: Diores
Aries: Thoas
Taurus: Idomeneus
Pisces: Tlepolemus
Virgo: Aeneas
Sagittarius: Pandarus
Aquarius: Euphemus
Gemini: Glasucus

*Helen was not mentioned in the Catalogue of ships and neither was Libra. Although the constellation was known at the time of Homer it was considered part of the claws of Scorpio (there were 11 signs of the Zodiac). Leigh provides a detailed reasoning for Helen and her ladies in waiting to be part of Libra.

The catalogue of ships mentions several names as leaders. But the true leader is always the one associated with the brightest star. Four of the names are Trojan with Helen being the mediator of the two “sides.”

There are important heroes in the Illiad which are useful for magic.
Arcesilaus rules the constellation of Drago
Nestor rules the constellation of Auriga
Achilles rules the constellation of Canis Major
Hector rules the constellation of Orion
Odysseus rules the constellation of Boots.
Other heroes are mentioned as ruling different constellations within the narrative. For example Paris is a joint ruler of Orion with Hector.

The Gods in this scheme

The planets represent the Homeric gods. But they are not quite the same attributions of modern astrology. Because Mercury was close to the sun, the Ancients saw it as two planets. One in the morning and the other in the evening. The version which rose in the morning was attributed to Apollo (probably because of its closeness to the sun) and one which rose in the evening was to Hermes. It is not clear when the Ancients figured out there was only one planet, but it might have been around the time that Apollo took over the role of Helios as the Sun god. According to Leigh, while the same issue of rising in the Morning and Evening applied to Venus, Homer recognised that it was a single planet, perhaps because it was easier to see.

Jupiter was not allocated to Zeus as you might expect but to Athena. Leigh thought this was because Zeus represented an overall united principle which could not be seen. Personally I think this is nonsense as in her scheme she does not count the Sun as a planet. Given some of Leigh’s other theories it makes sense to attribute him to the sun.

Hera is allocated to the moon. She is called white armed when she is waxing or waning or cow-eyed when she is full. The story recounted in the Iliad where she seduces Zeus is an accurate description of a Lunar eclipse, which is one of the reason I think Zeus is represented by the sun in the Iliad.

So, the list is

Sun: Zeus
Hera: Moon
Apollo (Morning) Mercury
Hermes (evening) Mercury
Aphrodite: Venus
Aries: Mars
Athena: Jupiter
Poseidon: Saturn

Gods appear in the constellations too but this blog has gone on long enough

The conspiracy of conspiracy theories

When I was a kid I loved a good conspiracy theory, from Aliens to JFK. They promised a world which nothing was true, which unfortunately turned out to be a lie.  Conspiracy theories slipped away as I had to work in the real world and started to understand how people really worked. In the occult world, conspiracy theories are rife about all sorts of issues, from chem trails to big pharm anti-vaccinations and I am starting to sense there is a sort of conspiracy – only it is the conspiracy theorists who have been sucked in.

Firstly, conspiracy theories are constructed using false evidence or assumptions. This was seen in Umberto Eco’s must read book Foucault’s pendulum where the protagonists invent a Templar conspiracy, only to find that it was true. The idea is that you think there is a conspiracy and see all the facts which fit into that conspiracy and ignore those that don’t fit. The idea is to create a link of ideas to prove a false premise. If there are holes in the theory, then it is all due to some cover-up and those who point out those holes are either sheep, or part of the cover-up. The fact that a conspiracy theory survives this process is proof of its accuracy.

In 1996, the United States Air Force published a report about weather modification. As a result, it was accused of “spraying the US population with mysterious substances” from aircraft ” contrails.” Every time contrails were seen in the sky, it was thought that this was the government chemically trying to control its population. The conspiracy escalated so that every time a contrail was seen, it was the forces of darkness trying to control their populations.

The “‘Chemtrail’ hoax has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organisations, and major media publications” but it did not go away. In fact a fake science has built up around the idea. Realising that contrails are a natural part of air flight, the conspiracy theorists claimed that Chemtrails were different from contrails by their long duration. They last for half day or transform into cirrus-like clouds.

However atmospheric scientists say that this is normal – contrails can persist for hours, and that it is a perfectly normal characteristic for them to spread out into cirrus sheets. But they would say that wouldn’t they?

Conspiracy theories pop up around dramatic events and rather than helping find the truth they tend to obscure it. Instead of helping us find who are responsible and bringing them to justice, they end up protecting the real perpetrators. One of the rules of a good conspiracy theory is you should find out who benefits as a result of the event being organised. For this you have a range of possible good guys and bad guys. The forces of good are the conspiracy theorists who know the truth but are hunted for it, the forces of darkness are big pharm, government, CIA, FBI, aliens, the army, the Illuminati and Jewish Bankers.

At the heart of the conspiracy theory is the conspiracy theorist. According to Psychology Today Richard Bentall of the University of Liverpool, analysed the data of one of the largest surveys of psychological health ever carried out: the US National Comorbidity Survey-Replication.
Carried out in 2001-03, it asked the question: “I’m convinced there’s a conspiracy behind many things in the world.” More than a quarter of those who responded to the item felt that it was true.
Bentall said that these people had several things in common. They were, for example, more likely to be male and unmarried. They had lower levels of education and income. They were more likely to be from an ethnic minority. They were more likely to carry a weapon. They were less likely to go to Church regularly.

They tended to report lower levels of physical and psychological wellbeing; and to see themselves as socially inferior, both in comparison to their local community and to the nation. They were more likely to have seriously considered suicide. Their social networks were weaker (they often felt, for example, that they could not rely on friends and family in times of trouble) and they found it harder to maintain secure relationships.

Childhood relationships with parents had often been challenging. Often these individuals had not lived with both biological parents; they had spent extended periods away from home; or had experienced violence at the hands of their parents, the study said.

Conspiracy theorists were more likely to meet the criteria for all types of psychological disorder, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and alcohol and drug problems.
What is interesting about this picture is that fits a similar demographic to occultists. They are outsiders from the mainstream, who find it difficult to find their place in the world.
Having created the hero of the conspiracy story we can make a few generalisations about the theories themselves.

General rules about conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories draw attention away from the actual event and towards the conspiracy theorist and their ideas.

There is something narcissistic about conspiracy theories. If a terrible event happens, a conspiracy theorist will soon appear online to claim that it is a “false flag” or that the victims are all crisis actors. The act draws attention away from the terrifying incident and towards the conspiracy theorists’ worldview. The idea is that worldview, where only they know the truth, is more important.

Conspiracy theories overtly or covertly demonise a group of humans who are different from the theorist or that they have been excluded from.

The most obvious conspiracy theory, which keeps getting recycled in different forms, is that the Jews are involved in some grand plan to enslave Christianity. While there is no doubt that the finance industry is responsible for many of the world’s problems, it is always the Jewish bankers who get the bad press. The media is also supposed to be controlled by the Jews. Anti-Semitism is a blot on the psyche of Western culture and does not appear to be going away. Conspiracy theories enable racial and other forms of prejudice to justify themselves. It is probably obvious to the conspiracy theorist that race/religious hate ends up in shocking holocausts, but they do not see themselves as doing that. They are standing up against an evil cabal which is taking away their freedom, and just happens to be run by Jews.

Muslims are a more recent target for this sort of attention. Historically they have never been a threat and lacked the money to play the role of conspiracy masters. That was until Saudi Arabia became a significant power which combined the image of obscene amounts of wealth with religious fundamentalism. To a protagonist described above they make perfect super-villains even to the point of dismembering their enemies. Don’t get me wrong here, I do not have any love for the Saudi Arabian government, but they are just as unlikely to be part of a huge international conspiracy as the Jewish.

Masons being a secret organisation have been a target for conspiracy theorists for hundreds of years. The reason is that they are club which typically forbids admittance to outsiders (who as we have said make up the bulk of conspiracy theorists). While this is seen a joke by modern masons, who could not run a conspiracy to save themselves, there is just enough historical evidence to put masons in the heart of some significant conspiracies. There was the small matter of the American Revolution which was lead by a core of masons. In the UK many police forces had a high percentage of masonic members and there were indications of that power being misused. British and American masonry has gone out of its way to purge itself of that sort of thing – not so in mainland Europe where Eyes Wide Shut style lodges do exist to further political or criminal goals. However, these are of limited effect. The real reason is you are going to run a political cabal, the masonic model is out-of-date and too inflexible to be of any use. It does not need esoteric symbols or rituals. A modern boardroom and company procedure is all you need.

Other groups which might be subject to conspiracy theories are Roman Catholics, particularly Jesuits and Atheists. Obviously a strong protestant Christian bias, but as we have seen above, one which does not translate to religious action. Black rights civil groups are sometimes part of white conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories ignore victims.

Ironically while conspiracy theories seek to champion human rights and the ability of the individual to stand up against imaginary enemies, they do so at the expense of the real and verifiable body count. Dead are collateral damage to the conspiracy theory.
School shootings for example are all events organised by the authorities so that governments can take people guns away. The dead people are just “crisis actors” hired by the government, which always makes the mistake of using the same actors to do the same sort of “performance.”

It takes a certain coldness and a lack of logic to follow this through as most of the dead are children of families who have been part of a local community which knows them.

Conspiracy theories make the theorist feel better at the expense of others

Conspiracy theorists believe that they are the only ones who know the truth and that others are simply “sheep” who follow blindly. They make rather aggressive trolls.

Conspiracy theories ignore science

It has been a recent thing, but much of the conspiracy theories are anti-intellectual and science. The classic has been climate change, but to that you can add the moon landings being faked and bizarrely that the world is flat!

While conspiracy theorists will fall over themselves to find “whistleblowing” scientists to quote, to prove their points, they treat science as part of the conspiracy. Most of this is because, like most people, they don’t understand the science and distrust it. This is an instinct which is not helped by science becoming even more esoteric and withdrawn from reality. This does not mean that what it finds and creates is not real. I grew up around scientists and none of them doubted climate warming. One said that in ten years a waterfront property will be a liability and he sold his two years ago.

Conspiracy theories do not take into account human incompetence.

One of the stranger aspects of conspiracy theories, particularly espoused by Libertarians, is that they are reassuring. Random events do not happen, everything terrible is organised. Although it is part of an evil conspiracy it is somehow reassuring to know that everything is carefully planned and organised. But anyone who lives in the real world will tell you that accidents happen and people fuck up all the time. One of the key weaknesses of many of conspiracy theories is that it depends on politicians to be evil geniuses. Having met rather a lot of politicians there are not many clever ones and those who are not in senior positions. Most of the British and Italian ones have an anti-charisma which inspires people to vote for them in the same way people are drawn to look at accidents and train wrecks.

Politicians are incompetent and self-interested which is a winning formula for a cock-up which can easily be seen as a conspiracy.

Even the banking industry, which would make an ideal Bond Villain, is more likely to cock up rather than arrange a conspiracy. The mortgage crisis which bought the last recession was criminal incompetence with a hope to make vast amounts of money. It had huge economic fall out, but it was not a conspiracy to put lizards in power.

Conspiracy theories lack logic.

Many of the conspiracy theories just do not make sense outside their own universes. Why would the US government blow up their own buildings in 9/11? Sure you could go to war with Iraq or something else, but there are much easier ways of doing that. Occam’s razor says that the simplest theory is likely to be the most accurate, and conspiracy theories never are simplest.

Conspiracy theories do not resolve things

Humans are responsible for a huge mess on this planet, but nothing in conspiracy theories which seems to resolve anything. Even if the world believed that a conspiracy theory took place, there does not appear to be an alternative offered. In fact if a conspiracy theorist had a case, then very often the alternative ends up being worse than the problem. If the Protocols of Zion were valid, then the only solution is to round up all Jews and lock them up to break the conspiracy. The only way to stop Monsanto Company controlling the world’s food supply is to ban GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which stops the development of crops which could feed the world. The only way to stop school attacks is for everyone to carry a gun then the government will be too frightened to take them away. The Orkney satanic conspiracy, which existed in the minds of a few Christian social workers, was “resolved” by arresting a lot of innocent people and taking their children away. None of these are solutions which would work even if the conspiracy were correct in the first place.

Conspiracy theories discriminate against occultists

One of the things I never understood about occult conspiracy theorists is that they are turkeys looking forward to Christmas. So many conspiracies are based on twisting their beliefs and practices into something evil,

For example one conspiracy site made the claim that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded by lizards as part of their plan to take over the world. Other sites have attempted to say that the modern Golden Dawn is a right-wing nazi front. Anyone who actually names me as a right-winger clearly has ignored all the conspiracy theories where I am left-winger.

The biggest issue with conspiracy theories is that they often dig up the old concept that occultists are “Satanists” who perform baby murders. For example the recent conspiracy theory darling is Ronald Bernard. He was a high powered Dutch banker who can be seen tearfully telling his YouTube audience how he was required to take part in baby sacrifice as part of his satanic banking career. While in the Christian conspiracy land the whole thing makes sense, and you will not find any site debunking the story, in the occult world it is just so shit. Magic and the occult really does not work like that and only ever did in the fantasies of Christian monks during the middle ages, and the Tabloid journalists who liked running stories of naked witches.

The video reminded me of a mate of mine who was manic depressive, who when he was up was utterly convinced he was the best journalist in the world. He would hand-write pages of “news” for his company’s cricket magazine. He was living in another world where he was a Pulitzer prize winner and had memories of things which never happened. He would tell you impossible stories of events which never happened outside his own mind. Bernard holds a similar conviction. There is no doubt in my mind he believes what he is saying, but I do not believe that the story is true. If I did, I would believe that occultists are Satanists who sacrifice babies. Bernard mentions he had a mental breakdown after a friend committed suicide and was institutionalised. Recovery from this breakdown would fill a gap between the 1990s when he was involved in his baby murdering antics and turning up a decade or so later trying to set up an “ethical banking” scheme. He claimed the breakdown was guilt for his satanic banking activities, but the conspiracy theorists do not have to look at questions like that.

The Conspiracy of Conspiracies

While the world is chasing conspiracy theories or acting as if they existed, they are ignoring having to deal with the very real problems the world is facing. While climate change is a conspiracy theory, we don’t have to anything to stop it. While the government is our enemy or under the control of aliens or lizards, we opt out of supporting it. While conspiracy theories are good at attacking globalisation and the mythical move to a “one world government,” they are less likely to call for government taxation of corporates, or trade isolation. While leftist conspiracy theorists do go for corporates, they do not feature government bureaucratic conspiracies. Right Wing conspiracy theorists see their enemy as government. This suggests that conspiracies are not real, they are just projections of the left or right’s political views and fantasies.

Ironically the only effect of a good conspiracy theory is to create fear and anxiety. A frightened person is less likely to stand for office, try and improve things, stand out from the rest. The irony is that if there is a secret cabal ruling everything to keep humanity docile, then it will certainly be encouraging conspiracy theories.

Occult personality types

Occultism is full of some strange personality types and if you are part of a group you are almost certain to have met them. The following list is not meant to be an attack, I I have been several of these myself. The list started to create itself in my head when someone on Facebook said “what is the most common occult personality type.

The Armchair Occultist: A person who reads lots of books and mistakes this for actual practice. They will often correct people for doing things wrong, but are unable to cite their own practical experience. They will say that they have been involved in magic for many years, but never find the time to do a meditation or ritual.

The Perpetual Student: Enthusiastically studies and follows the path but never actually progresses. The will often switch groups, or systems, but never change as a result of the experience.

The Tourist: Has an extensive occult career in many different groups or systems but never follows one completely and thus gets nothing from the whole experience. They rarely stay in one group long enough to have any real experiences. Sometimes they fixate on a group or system but always leave before they have a chance to get anywhere.

The Joiner: Like the tourist they join lots of groups but tend to stay in them. They will often be “active” in lots of groups but the actual work in these groups is limited to showing up. They often like to brag about the groups they are in, forgetting that many of these groups are supposed to be secret.

The organiser: The organiser is the person who does everything in the group. They offer their homes for meetings, arrange workshops etc. But they do not actually do any magical work themselves. They are far too busy organising.

The Leader: The leader is someone who, often from an early age, wants to lead an occult group. Less interested in the magical work, they will often display a superficial knowledge to convince their followers that they should be in charge. If it comes to a choice between magic and leading they will always choose leader.

The Teacher: The teacher is a variant on leader. Often, they have a great deal of knowledge but they want people to acknowledge the fact usually by sycophantic behaviour. They are natural autocrats whose views may never be questioned. They often talk about the role of the teacher, but if you swap the world teacher for God you understand where they are coming from.

The Fundamentalist: Someone who is desperate to find some certainty in the world by a literal interpretation of occult teaching. They will cite documents or books as “proof” and get really pissed off when you point out that the occult path is evolving, or developing. No sense of humour and does not find any of this funny.

The dark fluffy: The dark fluffy is a person who thinks occultism is all about having a cool image. Unfortunately, that image involves wearing black and wearing lots of silver jewellery. Magic to them is a Hammer Horror film. They will talk about dropping acid and summoning a demon to serve them, but often still live at home.

The Goddess: The Goddess is more common in Wiccan groups. She is someone who makes the Goddess in her image, which is to say generously proportioned and autocratic. She always takes the key role in a ritual, particularly if it carries with it a lot of respect and ritual bowing. She is likely to say that you are not bowing to her, but the goddess, but it is clear that you actually are. When involved in a ritual, it what ever role they take, the ritual is all about her.  I have not met a male equivalent, they tend to fall into the other categories.

The Orphan: Often seen with the Goddess this is someone who is looking for a father or mother figure because theirs was so shite. They will project their idea father or mother image onto the group leader and worship them as if they are a god or goddess. It works fine until the person fails to live up to their expectations and they will then have a childish fit.

The experimenter: The experimenter is someone who wants to leave their mark on magic by tinkering with existing systems. They might have good ideas, but more often they did not understand the system that they were working with in the first place. While they are correct that experimental work is vital for magic, they often will waste lots of time reinventing the wheel, or the lesser ritual of the pentagram to “improve it.”

The Narcissist: This person makes the mistake of thinking that when occult teaching calls you an expression of the One Thing they are the One Thing. Godform work does not mean they are working with Osiris but are Osiris (worship me please). This is not an occult thing, it is just a narcissist who also happens to be involved in occultism.

The Magician’s partner: This is the person with no magical talent of their own who latches on romantically to a magician who is really doing the work. They bask in the reflected glory and they tend to receive status within a magical group without doing any work. They will often rabidly defend their partner without really being aware of what they are talking about.

The New Age flake: This person who sucks up new age ideas like a sponge and reagitates them when they are in the presence of others. They are completely and utterly naïve and easy to convince that drinking their own urine is a good idea.

The Mason: This is a real mason who has joined the group and thinks that people will be interested in how their group is a direct reflection of some grade in masonry which they happen to have. They are like the joiner, only there is a definite masonic theme. They will often tell you stories of how life was when they were “in the chair.” They have tendency to think that every ritual is like one they do in Lodge. Don’t ever ask these types “If masonry is so great why are you here?”

The conspiracy nut: Given occultism is supposed to be part of the great conspiracy, you will find a surprising number of people who espouse conspiracy theories. It would not surprise me if the Illuminati really had a bunch of owl eating members who insisted, against personal experience, that the illuminati were trying to take over the world. Having been outted as a lizard by once conspiracy expert I tend to think conspiracy nuts are best avoided (or eaten).

Invocation to Nergal

Hero, majestic, awe-inspiring son of Enlil, battering like a storm and roaring against the rebel lands!,

After you take your place, your immensity goes before you and behind you surging as a flood.
Lord Meclamta-eda inspiring terrifying awe, you magnificent strength does not release the hostile land, and your luxuriant horn pierces it and strikes it with weapons.
You who were sired by Enlil, the supreme god who destroyed the world with the Great flood and he has placed you at his right hand and he gives you your heroic strength.
Raising your head, you are authoritative with a ringing voice,
You know the divine powers of the gods and the powers of the Land.
You travel through heaven and organise all.
At your command the storm flattens the hostile land and you pour dust the dust of destruction.
You pour dust over evil for as long as it disobeys.
You are the great hero of the lands, you speak where no one speaks
You walk where no foot has gone.
You are like a vessel with seven spouts. The black-headed gather together at the front. You outpace the pigeons in your flight. You outpace the black and white locusts.
In the hushed streets, your inspiring awe covers the city.
The majestic and just are crowned by your might.
Yours is the south wind that none can withstand. At the place of the queen, the most precious place, you are the supreme deity!
Directing a noble gaze, you exercise kingship in the Land! For his father he has led the people from afar. He, Nergal, has brought them to the gates of the underworld.
The minister of the beautiful place in the underworld, Nincubur greeted Nergal: “You are the lord who has made the bandits come forth from the mountains and no part of a foreign land escapes your grasp. For Enlil you piled up Enlil’s enemies in a single day. Hating evil, for you Nergal are as a fire, you rise up in the lands where the sun rises.
You are Nergal son of Enlil Praising you is sweet.

Notes

Nergal was the Sumerian God associated with Mars, it is believed that after many centuries he became the inspiration for the Hebrew angel Michael . He was associated with the planet Mars and the colour red. His worship extended to the Hittites and Babylonia. This invocation is developed from an original prayer to him which can be found here. This God could be used to replace Michael in workings of defence and to see off evil.

“Traditional” Golden Dawn groups

After the closure of Whare Ra bought to an end the old Golden Dawn lineage, their have been numerous groups started by those either using Israel Regardie’s Golden Dawn books, or old papers and manuscripts claiming that they are “traditional.” Some of these modern Golden Dawn, various groups have been falling over themselves to prove that they use traditional Golden Dawn methods. Even though various Golden Dawn groups had problems or flaws in their teaching, the word traditional is synonymous with better with no one wanting to say that they are “new and improved.”

At the same time the new traditionalists do not want to appear as if they are stuck in the mud and living in the Victorian period. They rightly suggest that the tradition must move with the times. Thus, they can have their cake and eat it too.

What is lacking in these arguments is a definition of what traditional Golden Dawn really is, beyond an appeal to bogus “marketing.”

Traditional Landmarks

Some groups have tried to define the Golden Dawn tradition by trying to find what is called in masonry “landmarks.” These are the parts of an order which if they were removed or changed would make it something different. The term is biblical and comes from Proverbs 22:28: “Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set”, referring to stone pillars set to mark boundaries

The Masonic Landmarks are clear. There had to be a belief in a Supreme Being, immortality of the soul, a book of sacred law, the use of a legend in the Third Degree, passwords and the use of a symbolic Lodge ritual and that the Mason is a freeborn man of lawful age.

These appear to be incredibly wide but, while you would think that this would be easy, the Golden Dawn has a problem pinning down what its landmarks are. Websters dictionary says that tradition is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behaviour (such as a religious practice or a social custom). When we look at the Golden Dawn we must look at it for these criteria. Logic would say that if a group deviates from such a pattern of behaviour it stops being traditional.

Traditional through Isis-Urania

So, let us look at the foundation of the Golden Dawn tradition the Isis-Urania temple in London. That group was founded on rituals which were based on the Cipher manuscripts. Samuel Mathers used these skeleton documents to build the rituals for the 0=0 to the 4=7 and these rites were used throughout the history of the order. Logically we would think that these should give us a clear pattern of what the tradition should be. If that is the case then it is safe to say that we are looking at a quasi-Masonic rite performed by a small group of people in someone’s house.  In the early days, there were unlikely to be many robes worn with the only uniform piece of equipment that was compulsory was the sash.

So from this we can say that the traditional Golden Dawn is actually a non-magical organisation of five rituals based on the Cipher manuscripts. These would appear then to be the landmarks of the Golden Dawn and if you changed these, it would cease to be Golden Dawn.

But after a couple of years, the Golden Dawn writes the Portal ceremony. I published this early ritual for the first time in Mather’s Last Secret. It uses a slightly different set of formulas for the logic of the ritual than the Cipher manuscripts. It also removes most of the officers and the map of the temple floor.

So does this mean that Isis-Urania stopped being a traditional Golden Dawn when Mathers wrote the new Portal? Of course not, but it means that the Ciphers were not written in stone and the order had the flexibility to develop them. In later years, few people even saw the Ciphers or knew of their existence, if they were going to be landmarks then they were going to be invisible.

Second Order

Things became even less traditional when the Second Order was lowered on top of the Golden Dawn and in particular the Z documents. On the face of it the Z documents provide the guidelines for the ritual equipment and practices that were already going on. However, they also add a lot more to the mix which could not be considered traditional by the earlier standards. A wand was no longer just the symbol of the Heirophant’s directing power and its symbolism was spelt out. The wands represented parts of the tree, so when you held it in one part you were using the power of the path. Also the Z documents added layer upon layer to the 0=0 ritual making it truly magical.
Logically then this would be the time to say that the Golden Dawn Tradition began.

It would be familiar to modern Golden Dawn people at this time. It was the period of Yeats, Farr, and Crowley it was the brief moment that the teaching and ritual practices were stable.

Unfortunately, this is untrue either. Practice varied wildly between the different temples. The Bradford Temple was only accepting Masons and therefore did not allow women to join, something which was against the Second Order Oath. There are subtle differences between some of the manuscripts.

Traditional through the Z-documents

The Z documents were often not being used either. One of the most senior members of the Golden Dawn Edward Berridge, who at various points was Mathers’ representative in London, did not have a copy and so cannot have been carrying out any of the visualisations and magic contained in them.

Later he went on to head Mathers’ London temple and had to ask Wynn Westcott for a copy and it is a moot point if he used them from that point either. No copy of the Z documents turned up in the Nisi collection which I based Mather’s Last Secret upon.

Arthur Waite’s spin-off order also rejected their use and while the Stella Matutina and the Paris Temple of the AO were enthusiastic supporters, the other temples were not. Clearly the Z documents were not landmarks either.

The version of the Z documents which have ended up in the in Yeats collection in the Dublin Yeats museum is much more the masonic version than it was to the modern Orders. Robes were still optional and the only thing a normal member needed to bring with them to attend a meeting
was their sash.

The Z documents also did not apply to the elemental grades but only the 0=0. It was this style of working with Mathers took with him into his AO. In I pointed out how there was very little in the AO which was not from He changed the name of the Order, but referred to as the Golden Dawn in most of the elemental grade rituals. He also added an additional sequence to the 0=0 ritual which was taken from the Golden Dawn’s Equinox ceremony.

He continued to use the early Portal Ritual and added few papers. This on paper would apparently make Mathers’ AO more traditional than what was being formed by the rebels. But Berridge’s London temple lacked a vault and many adepts never took part in the 5=6 ritual. A ritual was not required for the 6=5 and 7=4 ritual either. This involved writing a cheque to Mathers and for passwords and grade signs to be given by a temple chief. The 6=5 was published in full in Tabatha Cicero’s Concourse of the Watchtowers book and show that such grades were more administrative than magical.

Not only did they change their name throughout their rituals they also rewrote the Portal and merged speeches to make them easier to perform. When the Order split into those who favoured the Christian mystical approach and those who wanted Magic there were even more changes.

Waite purged as much of the Z documents as possible and rewrote the rituals based on the Cipher manuscripts. Felkin’s Stella Matutina made further changes to the Portal and then added new 6=5, 7=4, 8=3, and 9=2 rituals.

Unlike Berridge, Felkin and Brodie-Innes did stick to the Z documents. Felkin’s New Zealand temple continued to research all this during its long history.

So does this mean that any of the off-shoots of the Golden Dawn were not traditional? The point is that the members themselves thought they were. Although Felkin and, for that matter Yeats, had been around to see the original Golden Dawn, their feelings were that they had made changes to the rituals that had improved them. Indeed, their ceremonies were in use a lot longer than any of the original Golden Dawn rituals.

Traditional Bristol Temple
Israel Regardie in his Harry Potter days

It can equally be said that the Bristol temple was traditional when Israel Regardie was a member of it, even though a few years before he joined, they were experimenting with rituals which had been cut, so that diagrams which were exposed to the candidate’s sphere of sensation during the rituals, were simply shown to them during their study. After Regardie printed these cut-down rituals Bristol went back to their old ones.

It is ironic that these experimental rituals were published and have become seen as the orthodox tradition. One modern Golden Dawn chief once told me that she treated the six edition of the Golden Dawn book (nicknamed the black book) as the Bible of the Golden Dawn. Another Golden Dawn chief said that he didn’t want to run his temple like Mathers or Westcott, he wanted to do it like Regardie.

Such statements are important because they show the problems that many modern Golden Dawn people have equating what Regardie experienced and then suggested over the years with the Tradition.

Regardie himself made several significant changes to the Tradition which was not followed elsewhere. The first was the emphasis on psychology in magic which flowered by the 1970s but was mirrored by Dion Fortune in the UK. Unlike Fortune, Regardie was not impressed with the Inner Tradition of the Golden Dawn.

After his 5=6 in Bristol he went into the vault and one of the officers channelled a message from the secret chiefs (Ironically a prophecy about taking the Golden Dawn current to the United States). Regardie had seen something similar with Crowley and the shrink in him felt that it just came from a person’s unconscious. He passed on this prejudice to many modern Golden Dawn groups who do not try such contacts. Regardie also downplayed the importance of the elemental grades suggesting that people only needed to perform the watchtower ceremony to replace them.

In some cases, Regardie had no influence. One of his children was the Order of the Sphinx and Pyramid which was formed by Tamara Bourkoun. After she moved back to the UK in the 1960s she asked him for help to establish a Golden Dawn group which would act as an outer face for an Enochian based second Order she was creating. Like Regardie suggested, Tamara Bourkoun used cut down Golden Dawn rituals taken straight from his book. But in addition to that she was heavily into a form of Enochian channelling from several secret chiefs. Members of this group would go on to form the Order of the Cubic Stone, but would dump all semblance of Golden Dawn material and its chiefs would bend the ear about how bad the system was to anyone who would listen. Regardie thought the channelling was insane and declared Bourkoun “nuts.”

Contacts and channelling

The use of contacts was very much part of the Golden Dawn tradition. Other than Berridge, Brodie-Innes and Mathers had very specific ideas as to making contacts with the secret chiefs. These ideas would be passed on to the Cromlech Temple, and to the Society of Inner Light through the teachings of the AO initiate Dion Fortune. This means that anyone who follows Regardie’s line on Inner Plane contacts or the psychological approach is not following “the tradition.”

It would be easy for those who want to “sell” their group as traditional by claiming that their system is based on a particular epoch of the Golden Dawn tradition.

But if you take traditional Whare Ra for example this is equally a hiding to nowhere. The order had several distinct phases. For example, Mrs. Felkin when through a seven ray phase which would seem alien to many Modern Golden Dawn groups. In addition, many different Hierophants would do things differently. A senior adept in Whare Ra Barbara Nairn commenting on a workshop I gave about contacts said that it was something she had heard at Whare Ra but was not talked about for years.

Frank Salt, who has led one off-shoot of Whare Ra, had a different view of magic from Jack Taylor who led another. Barbara Nairn also did things differently. Some of this had to do with the way their spiritual path developed after Whare Ra closed. Jack Taylor was more interested in colour magic around the time he died. The Arthurian System of the Order of the Table Round influenced Percy Wilkinson.

Yeats

Another argument is by those who want to recreate their order based on documents that Yeats had. Sadly, Yeats must have had lots of them in his time. He was a member of the Golden Dawn and the Stella Matutina and some of them are wildly contradictory.

So what we have to wonder is when an Order stops being Golden Dawn and starts to be something else? It is not a simple matter. Like I said there are no clear landmarks which anyone can identify. Golden Dawn groups will, by their very nature, emphasise some things more than another. A Golden Dawn group which uses the rituals is still a Golden Dawn group and so is one which looks at inner or magical techniques. Even a group which rejected the Z documents, such as Waite’s Rectified Rite, still functions within the Golden Dawn egregore.

Those who might not like what one Golden Dawn group does, must accept that they are part of the same egregore because they also take on most what they do too. That is unless that they decide not to be part of that egregrore.

MOAA

In the case of the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea we have made changes to the way godforms work. This is because we lean toward a more pagan approach to Godforms. We also use something like a contact system and inner temples.

I have edited the Whare Ra rituals to use modern English because we are based in Rome and a lot of our members have English as a second language.

We also use more modern translations of Bible verses and the Chaldean oracles. We also have a consensus based leadership with changes to the system being talked through with all the Temple chiefs before they are enacted. Yet we have many connections and teachings which came from Whare Ra; we use the same rituals, and share many of the same ideas.

Yet we do not consider ourselves as traditional and no longer see ourselves as part of the Golden Dawn egregore, although we see the Golden Dawn as part of our Tradition.

This is the point. There are no landmarks in the Golden Dawn and anyone can be traditional, or not, or even part of the Golden Dawn if they believe it. This is not the sort of landmark which would make many modern Golden Dawn members comfortable, it would mean that they would share an egregore with lots of groups that they have wild disagreements with. But it is better that than building your temple from what you think your landmarks are, and then discovering that someone in your Order’s history moved the boundary posts.

 

This post first appeared in Hermetic Virtues in 2012.  I have re-spun the end a bit because I notice that people are still talking about Golden Dawn landmarks and being a traditional Golden Dawn Group.