A debate is starting to happen on whether or not the New Zealand Whare Ra order, which was the last Golden Dawn group with a direct lineage to the original order was better than the modern versions which have emerged since the 1970’s. The danger is that both sides can see themselves as better than the other, which would be completely untrue.
For those who came in late, Whare Ra’s existence was first made known in a book published by Pat Zalweski in the 1980s. Zalewski, and his wife Christine were not a members of Whare Ra but was exclusively trained by one of its best Heirophants Jack Taylor. Later it emerged that Tony Fuller was also trained by a Whare Ra demonstrator Frank Salt and others have since appeared. As I have said here I had some training and connection with Whare Ra before and after I left New Zealand.
The modern Golden Dawn owes its existence to the publication of Israel Regardie’s book Golden Dawn. The book was largely ignored until the 1970s when established magical orders started to be based on it. The phenomena was American and the modern Golden Dawn is entirely an American movement and is more heavily influenced by the psychological ideas of Regardie than Whare Ra ever was.
However Regardie’s publication was not enough. Numerous people had tried over the years to form orders based around his book and had largely failed. But the Modern Golden Dawn would not exist without the work of Chic and Tabatha Cicero, who were personally trained by Regardie. Through their own researches and by collection original Golden Dawn papers took their order far beyond what Regardie could have imagined and provided all the missing training and paperwork that their teacher never had.
Regardie’s own Golden Dawn temple experience was limited, something that those who have which to attack the Modern GD have exploited. He only ever attended seven rituals (his own initiations) and his notes seem to indicate that the whole lot went over his head. He believed that it was possible to recreate the outer order rituals by using the shortcut of doing the Watchtower rituals and yet he never produced an adept using that approach.
One of the things that I have always said about Chic and Tabatha Cicero is that that they overestimate the impact and ability of Regardie and under-state their own genius. Chic and Tabatha would be leaders of any Order – something that can be put down to the fact that they went through their own system without short cuts and worked damn hard. Remember this because it becomes important to the story later.
In my forthcoming book Beyond the Sun I looked at the history of the Order in New Zealand. It is, and always will be the best and most significant branch of the First Golden Dawn lineage (and no, I do not count BOTA) in that it archived a magical community with the best training possible.
High Noon for the Golden Dawn
However reluctantly I have to admit that in its last decade of existence it was unable to function because it had become weighed down by its own history and was out-of-date. Put simply it was a conservative dinosaur it needed a radical up-date but it lacked the contacts or the talent to make that happen.
It is my theory that the Golden Dawn contacts moved on. When Whare Ra closed a new Golden Dawn opened in the United States under the control of Chic and (later) Tabatha Cicero.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was centred on the Cicero’s was created much more flexible and liberal model which could adapt to the late 20th century. Its lack of a particularly autocratic structure made it possible to spread quickly without downgrading the standards set. New orders could basically spin off from it as its leaders found their own contacts and approach. This standard is that everyone has to go through the grades, do the tests and there are no short-cuts.
Chic and Tabatha did not have any short cuts in their path. They started at 0=0 and worked their way up. This is a marked contrast between other Modern Golden Dawn groups whose leaders start claiming a 5=6 or 7=4 without doing the work and then initiate others without ever going through the grades themselves.
It is worth pointing out that after I had taken my 5=6 and returned to what was left of the Whare Ra circles they recognised me at that grade. So it meant that Chic and Tabatha had done something right.
Now we come to the people who have emerged from Whare Ra training. Remember none of the current people actually were members of Whare Ra. Pat and Christine Zalewski have valid initiations to the 7=4 grade and the link as does Tony Fuller (via Frank Salt) – all of them I admire and respect.
Pat has gone on to add more material to the mix (which I think is a good thing and well in line with what his initiator Jack Taylor would have done) Tony’s approach is more conservative – following Frank Salt’s more measured approach but lacking the latter’s more caustic reputation. (Some of Frank Salt’s writings about Regardie are a little like me writing about Apple).
All three have been fundamental in filling in gaps which the Modern Golden Dawn lacked. As such I see them as the bridge between the past and future and extremely important. They are modernisers but have come from a different route. Their approach is not American, but uniquely that of New Zealand.
Where it will all go pear shaped is when the students of the Modern Golden Dawn and those of the Whare Ra lineage square up to each other and the problem here is that they will end up arguing over who right or best is based on an imagined history. Because someone had a Whare Ra teacher, or their teacher did, it does not give them a papal authority over the rest of the Golden Dawn groups. Jack and Frank both made cock-ups in their time and were not infallible. Even if they had been perfect communicators, there is no guarantee that their students will get it right – or indeed that new understandings or teachings are not required.
Chic and Tabatha Cicero connected themselves to the Golden Dawn tradition through a lot of hard work. They then adapted that tradition to a modern environment. It is not completely “authentic” because it should not be. The original Golden Dawn was formed in 1888, have a look at the television drama Penny Dreadful and you will understand why that is a bad thing.
Those descended from Whare Ra might have “lineage” but were not initiates of that Order (in one notable case one of the New Zealand Whare Ra advocates would never have been initiated in that system.) This is quite important because part of Whare Ra’s power was its community — something which continued to exist even after the Order closed.
They might have the documents, but they were never true Whare Ra members. Tony and the Zalewskis never made that claim, but it is the nature of things that one day their followers might just stick their nose up in the air and say “you are wrong because Whare Ra did it different.” They might equally seek to discredit new Golden Dawn ideas because it might not have come from “official Whare Ra sources.”
Sometimes things which I think were Whare Ra mistakes (such as some of the vault colours and the flipping of the cartouches on the pillars) have been intellectually justified (thus embodying the inflexibly of the later Whare Ra order).
On the US Golden Dawn side there is the danger that they might react badly when a Whare Ra teaching destroys something which was held as an assumption turned out to be untrue. An example of this was the Kerux wand with serpents going up it. In Whare Ra (and the original Golden Dawn) this was simply a stick but a mistake in reading Regardie turned it into a real impliment.
What is interesting is that both camps are producing good work and both have much to learn from each other. What might stuff this process up is if one side starts saying it is superior to another’s or hinting that the other has no right to exist. It is not happening yet, but it could easily go that way.
Imperious put-downs will be the indication that the student or whatever lineage has lost the thread, because both in the eyes of the gods will be seen as valid.
Fortunately I can sit on the fence. I have my Whare Ra connection and history and my training and Grade work with the Ciceros. The Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea is “modern” and “experimental” and most people would describe it as Golden Dawn however it is also connected to Whare Ra and incorporates what I was told by those people. To me this means that I have the best of both words, which probably means that I can be stoned by both sides.