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Gods of the Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn has an unusual attitude to Gods, which can be best described as an intellectual abstraction which is disconnected from their god status.
Osiris 
During a 0=0 ceremony, the Heirophant creates a battery of Egyptian godforms which matches the Book of the Dead. These were closer to thought forms, because in most cases the officers, who were unorthodox Christians, would not have considered them “real” in any sense of the world. Each god would be dressed in a specific way which would allow them to reflect the colours and powers of the Golden Dawn system, rather than any attachment to ancient Egypt.
These godforms acted like thought forms which effected change within the candidate’s sphere of sensation by virtue of the fact that they resonated to certain ideas.
Horus the Elder
For this to work, Mathers had to make up a couple of godforms to get what he wanted. Thus you end up with godforms for the Dadouchosand Stolisties which are extensions of Maat, but were unknown in Ancient Egypt. Over the centuries we have come to understand a lot more about Ancient Egyptian gods and some of the ones in the Golden Dawn ritual have different meanings from their real counterparts. For example Aroeris, or Horus the Elder, who the Golden Dawn connects with an active form of Osiris has really nothing to do with him. Aroeris was a pre-dynastic sky god who He was the son or husband of Hathor and was considered to be a creator god and the archetypal king. He was the brother of Set, and Osiris and was a creator god, the falcon who flew up at the beginning of time. His right eye was the sun and his left eye was the moon and images of the “Eye of Horus” were considered to be powerful protective amulets. His speckled feathers formed the stars and his wings created the wind.
True, he was associated with wars with Set, he became more Solar, and merged with the latter when the Isis and Osiris legend took hold of Egypt. But he was was a completely different God and certainly not a “more active Osiris.” If you were going to say that Horus was a counterpart of anyone on the floor of the 0=0 it would be the Hireus and not Osiris.
This would be unimportant if you relied on the Godforms as simply thought forms. However, occult philosophy has also developed over the last 100 years and thinking about Gods has changed.
Dion Fortune
Some of this work was carried out by Dion Fortune and the line which extended from her, manifesting through Bill Gray, Alan Richardson, Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, and Josephine McCarthy.
The current thinking is not that these forms are abstract beings, but rather they are living entities which continue to function long after their worship is stopped. While they do not require worship from occultists, they still want their work to continue and, with the correct handling, are useful to us. These are intelligent vortexes of power which can genuinely transform.Many magicians have approached these gods for help with their magical projects. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they say they would like to, but the work does not fit properly with their powers. Others fit a role really well when you do not expect it and an aspect of their power which was previously unknown becomes obvious.
With the rise of the neo-pagan movement, many Golden Dawn magicians are coming to the system with a religious connection of some kind with some of these Gods – Bast, Sekmet, Anubis and Isis are pretty popular. This is starting to prevent the use of such Godforms as the abstract thought-forms envisaged by Mathers. An experienced officer who works with Anubis on a daily basis creates a much stronger Kerux than one who does not.
Maat
The loss of the intellectual thought-form idea is not such a bad thing. The Gods themselves have a useful part to play within the 0=0 and can make the ritual more theomagical and it would be better to encourage the development of contact with these ancient Gods to improve the ritual.
However this then creates a problem in that some of the intellectual patches that Mathers installed within the rituals suddenly do not work. True, you can still think of the active and passive aspects of Maat as Dadouchosand Stolisties, although seeing them as separate godforms is inaccurate. It is better to bring in more accurate fire and water goddesses. Likewise you cannot see Osiris as Aroeris because he is standing up.
On the plus side, the group starts to tap into something which has been built by countless worshippers over a long period of history.
A lot more work still needs to be done to see if these godforms can be dressed within the more narrow conceptions of Mather’s thought-forms. If they agree, and they can follow the ritual, then you are creating a much more powerful form of initiation and developing the more Theurgic aspects of the Golden Dawn.
This is an area for research. There will be many who say that the Golden Dawn system of godforms is perfect and does not need touching. But in my view it is one worth looking at.

18 thoughts on “Gods of the Golden Dawn

  1. The Godforms in GD rituals are representations of potencies of forces that are already present. The GD merely clothes theme that can be attributed to pattern recognition. This clothing is a transformation of sorts to fit them into an overall matrix which link them together. My own work in this area is continually evolving and what I see in them today can be far removed to what I saw in them ten years ago. All of these forms have to be in a ritual matrix that presents them in such a way that they have colour and polarity and can be multi-levelled in structure. There is also an indeterminacy aspect to them which is always a crucial element in mystical and occult work as part of the viewer’s immaginative construct. Its this indeterminacy factor that you have raised here that often causes the problems in godfrom recognition as to what is seen by the viewer. Fortunately in the GD this indeterminacy is not for the whole of the godform and that is in predetermined shapes, form and colour are given to us to process. So many of the divisions you have pointed out have little bearing on the functionality of the godforms in ritual. The indeterminancy aspect is intertwined with a holographic component that brings the pattern form, polarity and shape into life within a given matrix.

  2. “Pattern recognition” is a good description. The Cipher only describes powers and potentcies, not specific gods by name. Thus was Yeats able to conceive of a 0=0 Hall substituting the Irish Heroes for the Egyptian Gods. (Does anyone know if he ever completed that work?) One could take the Speech made by each Officer as he Hierophant calls on them in the Opening and apply those descriptions to a different pantheon.

    Hierophant = solar, daylight, teacher of mysteries
    Hierus = night, darkness, protector of the temple
    Hegemon = balance, rectification, companion
    Kerux = opener of paths, guide to the seeker
    Dadauchos = fire, torch bearer
    Stolistes = water, vessel bearer
    Sentinel = guardian, gate keeper

    Conceivably, one could “plug in” Irish Heroes, Norse Gods, Aztec Gods, even Tolkien’s Valar or whatever else fits the requirements of the Hall.

  3. @Joseph Max – A Norse Golden Dawn pantheon? LOL! I know that the GD is syncretic but I don’t think Odin would appreciate being locked into the Golden Dawn myth structure. Unless he could garner up some more warriors for Ragnarok from the GD membership. Not! But then again the Hammer Rite of Asatru looks alot like the LBRP…

    Adesh!
    -Aghor Pir

  4. You could theoretically employ any pantheon and even, as Nick suggests, employ godforms of angels and saints, but the question is whether or not it would be Golden Dawn anymore.

    In regards to Yeats, he didn’t finish his idea, which was to be a new type of group, rather than a replacement of the gods within the GD itself. As far as I’m aware he was still working on it up until his death.

    In terms of what the GD originally intended, it’s clear that these were supposed to be “godforms” and not “gods,” as evidenced by Mathers creating the names for the Goddesses of the Scales.

    Ritual Z is quite explicit about them: “For the forms of the Gods of Egypt do represent a certain symbolic material action of the Divine Forces.”

    Employing them as real gods would obviously have a very different effect, the nature of which I am not yet aware.

    LVX,
    Dean.

  5. You could theoretically employ any pantheon and even, as Nick suggests, employ godforms of angels and saints, but the question is whether or not it would be Golden Dawn anymore.

    In regards to Yeats, he didn’t finish his idea, which was to be a new type of group, rather than a replacement of the gods within the GD itself. As far as I’m aware he was still working on it up until his death.

    In terms of what the GD originally intended, it’s clear that these were supposed to be “godforms” and not “gods,” as evidenced by Mathers creating the names for the Goddesses of the Scales.

    Ritual Z is quite explicit about them and their nature: “For the forms of the Gods of Egypt do represent a certain symbolic material action of the Divine Forces.”

    Employing them as real gods would obviously have a very different effect, the nature of which I am not aware.

    LVX,
    Dean.

  6. I think to be “Golden Dawn” an Order must conform to the framework of the Cipher Manuscript. The author(s) of the Cipher didn’t specify the godforms to use. So it comes down to this: is “Golden Dawn” what Westcott and Mathers came up with, or what the Cipher describes?

    I think using the Egyptian gods was chosen by Westcott (and maybe Mathers) because there was a huge Egyptology fad in Britain at the time, and it was a viable alternative to the Indian-based Theosophists.

    1. Exactly.

      That’s whats so nice about being a solitary. See, while the ole boys club are rewriting their own prison construct, I am passionately throwing my arm downwards and screaming “Aiwass” (or something)……I am practicing Goetia without a circle (cause I get it), Im having sex with every woman who will accept my branding her as the “goddess”; and ultimately I don’t care what Wescott, Mathers,or David Griffin feels about it. (No, I dont want a licensed charter for my group either). (not even for free)

  7. Very interesting blog and subsequent discussion, much of which is going over my head from my Neophyte standpoint! Intriguing, however. Thank you all. Adrienne

  8. I’m a Kemetic (More Re-constructionist bent than not, but also with GD practices, so it gets confusing LOL) …Hence I worship the Kemetic Deities as full blown gods…

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, thanks for this 😀

  9. Great reasoning points for the entry level occultist to convince him/herself of a good reason to practice god-forms at all.

    Kind of trendy and poetic on the surface, and if that’s what it takes, cool.

    Though the god-forms are a far deeper tool, as important as utterance (or lack thereof) itself. They tie-in your knowledge of the cosmos with magick.

    Metta by association. Each god-form is a reference point for an actual cosmic body or its associated attributes. For example: If I want to work with Jupiter, we must consider EL as a luminary body, or as a reflective body before considering god-form. I may take a ride as Amun Ra, or float in silence as an energy-form in the presence of the elder Sun. (kind of like Im doing here)

  10. Great post, Nick – thanks 🙂

    Theory is one thing, but a correctly baked pudding another. Cut and pasting alternate Godforms into the GD schema seems fine, but personally I would only do this when inspired and directed to do so. Otherwise we could end up with a hell of a mess – just look at the number of ‘Pagan’ LRPs out there that fairly set one’s teeth on edge and do bugger all magically.

  11. Joseph Max wrote and Blogger ate his comment:

    True enough. You have to know what you’re doing.

    Even Westcott and Mathers did this to some extent – Thoum-aesh-neith and Auramooth mean “torch bearer” and “water of light”, they are not traditional Egyptian godforms. But the 0=0 fromat requires Fire and Water Officers. So they, essentially, made some up.

    Anyway, the Egyptian format is proven to work, and I personally love the ritual motif. I simply believe that it is *theoretically* possible to plug alternative pantheons into the framework. This doesn’t diminish it, but makes it even more amazing; it’s proof of the “truth” of the system.

  12. Good comment Nick. Everything the GD did was to convert godforms to fit in with the ritual. What they did was to look for energy points in the ritual and bring in a god form to cover it. I did the same thing when I brought in godforms for the inner order rituals in the system that I use. I am pretty sure it was Garstin who worked out the godforms that are in my book but I strongly doubt they were official and possibly more of his personal work.

  13. A quick comment about the attitudes of the primarily Christian members of the Golden Dawn toward the Egyptian Godforms of the Outer Hall:

    As I am often fond of pointing out to students – there are NO Egyptian Gods in the Golden Dawn. After dropping that bomb and telling everyone to pick up their jaws, I explain: The Godforms that are present in the Outer Hall of the Golden Dawn are not the ancient Gods of pharaonic Egypt. We do not have Tehuti, Ausar and Auseth in the Hall. Instead, we have Tho-oth (Thoth), Osiri (Osiris) and Iset (Isis). Those guys are actually GREEK entities – or, to put a finer point on it, they are Greco-Egyptian Coptic Deities. The Copts – forerunners of the Gnostics – viewed these entities as powerful Archangels, not as Pagan Gods (as we would use that term today).

    Hence, the Christian members of the GD would have approached Osiri or Tho-oth with the same basic attitiude as they would have approached Michael or Raphael.

    1. Hi Aaron,
      Interesting viewpoint. Can’t say I agree with you there though. While it is true that the GD uses Coptic and Greek spellings of the Gods, that doesn’t mean that the Gods referred to aren’t Egyptian. One explanation for the Coptic spellings of the GD is that it makes it easier to guess the correct pronunciation of the God names, which is impossible to discern from the hieroglyphs alone. Mathers in the Z docs certainly doesn’t shy away from using the terms “Egypt” and “Egyptian” (not Greco-Egyptian) to describe the Gods referred to in the 0=0. And in the 1st Knowledge Lecture, the sub-lecture on “The Pillars”, there is reference to the specifically EGYPTIAN “Book of Coming Forth into Day”, etc. I can’t see how writing the names of the Gods in a different language, with a different pronunciation, changes the nature of the Beings (Gods) to which the names refer. And, afterall, what is “Greco-Egyptian” anyway other than the Greek’s *interpretation* of what was essentially Egyptian. On the other hand, I would say that the so-called Egyptian Gods, from a *higher* point of view, are not really so, in the sense that, if they are really Eternal Beings, then they must have existed before all cultures of the earth, and the ancient Egyptians merely became acquainted with them, as did the Copts and Greeks after them, whether they pronounced their names correctly or not; nevertheless, they are Egyptian in the sense that it is in that culture that we first see them referred to, for the most part. I say for the most part, as there is a theory that Thoth/Tehuti came from Phoenicia into Egypt. [See: http://www.phoenicia.org/alphabet.html%5D. All that said, I can imagine though how *some* of the Christian members might have felt the need to justify their working with the aforementioned gods/godforms, using the “they are not really pagan gods” viewpoint, that you refer to, as a kind of monotheistic get-out-clause:-) LVX.

  14. I found this blog article particularly interesting because it talks about a lot of the changes we felt impelled to make in our somewhat altered version of the GD Neophyte Ceremony. Being influenced by OSOGD, we changed some of the Godforms (although we changed even more of the Godforms in our Lodge). It’s been an ongoing experiment, but so far we like the results.

    You say:
    “Mathers had to make up a couple of godforms to get what he wanted. Thus you end up with godforms for the Dadouchos and Stolisties which are extensions of Maat, but were unknown in Ancient Egypt […]you can still think of the active and passive aspects of Maat as Dadouchos and Stolisties, although seeing them as separate godforms is inaccurate. It is better to bring in more accurate fire and water goddesses.”

    – Thinking along these lines, In our Lodge, we changed these Godforms to tie-in with actual ancient Egyptian Gods, using Bast for Dadouchos for the fire-officer and Hapi, for Stolistes. This changed the paradigm to one where they were more than just extensions of Maat, and give the officers a well-established form (with ancient roots) that could be easily visualized.

    You say:
    “we have come to understand a lot more about Ancient Egyptian gods and some of the ones in the Golden Dawn ritual have different meanings from their real counterparts. For example Aroeris, or Horus the Elder, who the Golden Dawn connects with an active form of Osiris has really nothing to do with him.”

    – Again, thinking like that, our Lodge chose to break tradition here, and use only one Godform for the Hierophant, (whether on the dais or not) the Hierophant with us is always Horus, the past Hierophant is Osiris (because the Father proceeds the son), and the dark war-Goddess Neith takes the role of Hiereus.

    You say:
    “occult philosophy has also developed over the last 100 years and thinking about Gods has changed. The current thinking is not that these forms are abstract beings, but rather they are living entities which continue to function long after their worship is stopped….These are intelligent vortexes of power which can genuinely transform”

    – That’s exactly how we see them in our Lodge. We also understand that we are working with Godforms, not directly with the Gods, but nevertheless, the Godforms are directly connected to *actual Gods*, real living intelligences that are behind the forms, that, if you like are gracious enough to “lend us” their outer astral garments (forms) for the purpose of the ritual.

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