This article was originally published in Hermetic Virtues. That magazine is a must have for any serious student of occultism and particularly the Golden Dawn. All the proceeds go to a good cause too http://www.hermeticvirtues.org/.
Israel Regardie is the main reason that the Golden Dawn magical system is popular. It was his Golden Dawn book, published just before the Second World War, which is considered the bible of the modern Golden Dawn movement. There are those who insist that the vision of the Golden Dawn, presented in the 6th Llewellyn edition is the real Golden Dawn and anyone else who does not use it is somehow “unorthodox”.
This is deeply ironic, given what those who knew the man have told me. Regardie was not a person who wanted to be made into a God or to be accorded a Papal status within the tradition. He was a person who lived the system, but also knew he was not the only one. True, he published the Golden Dawn book, but there were holes in his knowledge which, because of his unintended status within the tradition, have become crucial gaps.
Israel Regardie’s first brush with the Golden Dawn was through Alister Crowley. He would later say that he learnt no magic from Crowley during the brief period that he was his secretary. However there is an understanding of magical principles in his early works, such as the Tree of Pomegranates, which do not come fully formed in the mind of someone in their early 20s.
Regardie attracted the attention of Dion Fortune who had made contact with the Stella Matutina temple in Bristol. She had become a friend of Hope Hughes and had completed the Golden Dawn studies that she had started in Berridge’s London temple of the Alpha et Omega.
The Hermes Temple in Bristol was theoretically under the control of the Felkins who were running their “Whare Ra” temple in New Zealand. However the control between New Zealand and Bristol was non-existent and just before Regardie was initiated the English temple had decided to undergo an experiment.
The feeling was that the Golden Dawn rituals were too long and almost a third of the elemental grade rituals were spent presenting diagrams to the candidate. The temple decided to take a hatchet to the elemental grade rituals and remove most of the diagrams and present these to the candidate as part of their course packets. It is incredibly unlikely that if the Felkin’s had known of this plan they would have ever approved of it. The New Zealand temple was at that time using the last incarnation of the Golden Dawn rituals and a 6=5 and 7=4 rite written by Dr Felkin. Whare Ra, under Mrs Felkin, had placed layer upon layer of magical meaning onto the ritual. While it was possible to change some aspects of the speeches under such a structure, they would have considered it dangerous to remove components to the extent that Bristol had done so.
It was also quite unlikely that the “inepti” of the Bristol Temple, as Regardie was fond of calling them, would have understood the magical implications of what they were doing, or even researched it.
Regardie was disappointed with the Golden Dawn. He saw a bunch of elderly inepti sitting on a ton of valuable magical information that no one was doing anything with. He felt that the Golden Dawn, as he saw it, was dead and the valuable information stored within its teachings needed to be shown to the world before they were lost.
History has proved him right, but really publication of the Golden Dawn did little to further the system for nearly 30 years. The Golden Dawn book did not sell well and was difficult to find. The people who bought it were often members of temples who wanted printed replacements for the hand written manuscripts and clearer diagrams than they could manage. It is myth that the AO temples closed when the book was published because Regardie had revealed their secrets. The AO at the time was using a completely different ritual set for its 0=0 ritual and its elemental grade rituals would have been more involved than anything in the “Golden Dawn”. Whare Ra was doing extremely well and was not going to suffer any real problems until the 1960s. The Bristol temple appears to have been going until the 1960s and its adepts were still meeting occasionally for rituals until the 1970s.
Part of the reason for this was that Regardie had published the hacked rituals and teachings of the Bristol temple. As far as the existing temples were concerned they still had secrets and that the rituals as published were lacking the inner mechanics to make them work properly. It is telling that immediately after the publication of the book, Bristol went back to the original Stella Matutina rituals.
In the late 1970’s, the last surviving Golden Dawn Temple, Whare Ra closed its doors and burnt most of its material. The direct lineage of the Golden Dawn was truly ended. While the rest of the world was unaware of the death of Whare Ra, something significant did happen around the same time. Chic Cicero and other Regardie friends decided to restart the order. To do this they depended on Regardie’s book and memories from the man himself and this is where the holes started to become obvious.
When it came down to it, people were expecting an awful lot from Regardie. According to Bristol records he only ever attended Bristol seven times during a two and a half year period. To expect someone in their eighties after a full life to remember details of a ritual that took place 40 years earlier was a bit unfair. It is clear that he relied on his book, like many other people would do as they followed the Ciceros in the resurgence of the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” that followed.
This lead to one of the first mistakes that has flowed into the new Golden Dawn – that of the Kerux’s staff.
If you read any book that was published after Regardie, or join most Golden Dawn orders you will encounter a caduceus wand with two serpents being carried by the Kerux. During the 2=9 grade you will be presented with a disk that will show two versions of this. The first is a staff with the three mother letters upon it and the second is the caduceus. If you look at the Z documents there is some confusing references to the Kerux’s staff which could be read as being either the single staff and or the caduceus. When the modern Golden Dawn sprang up, it used the caduceus, presumably based on Regardie’s memory or interpretation of his own book.
However he was wrong. The Stella Matutina and the Golden Dawn before it, always used the staff with three colours on it. Red at the top, yellow in the middle and blue at the bottom. Whare Ra adepts told this to both me and Pat Zalewski. Some believed that the blue end was pointed although I was not told this. If you think that this only applied to Whare Ra, you might like to look at the drawings in the WB Yeat’s collection of the 0=0 ritual in which you can see clearly that the Kerux’s staff is also a stick. There are some very good reasons for this.
When the candidate enters the hall they are barred using the water part of the staff. This symbolises many things but perhaps the most significant is death. To enter the sacred temple of the mysteries you have to die and be born of water. Later when the candidate approaches the Heirus they are barred with the fire portion of the staff. This consecrates the candidate so that they are born of the Holy Spirit (fire). Finally as they approach the Hierophant they are barred with the yellow segment, that of Air which is the middle pillar, the ruach, and balance through the agency of Thoth. There is much more in these simple barrings but this is designed to give you an idea. However if you try to do this with a caduceus it is physically impossible. The Kerux can only, carefully, bar the candidate with the yellow part of the wand which means all these magical subtleties are lost. If attempts do do anything different are made then the Kerux will break one of the serpents on the wand. If the wand is made of metal, like that in one temple I have worked with, then you could injury the candidate.
The next issue that was forgotten, possibly because Regardie did not know, was the use of Godforms in the elemental grades. There are many different ideas about which Godforms should be used. Dion Fortune said that the use of Godforms in an initiation rite were the keys to the ritual. If these are forgotten then the rite loses its power completely. The use of the Godforms within the elemental grades of the Golden Dawn has been forgotten. Although the ritual does indicate some of the godforms that can be used, for example the 3=8 uses the Samothracian godforms, the invisible stations and “inner temples” have not been found. While it is possible that in the early Golden Dawn they did not exist, they appear to have done so in both the AO and the Stella Matutina. Felkin had developed his own set of godforms, but what these are have not been revealed, although I believe that one former chief instructed one person in what they were before his death. In the absence of information from Regardie, or other sources, modern GD groups have come up with their own solutions to this problem. The worst, and most common, is not to have any godforms within the elemental grades at all and thus render the elemental grades into masonic parodies. This is favoured by those who see the rituals as psychological rather than religious and the grades as “status” rather than tools for transformation.
The next process is to use the godforms from the 0=0 but “add” the godforms of the ritual as they are mentioned. This is better than nothing. However it faces the problem that the elemental grade rituals are not carried out within the temple of Maat. Not only is the inner structure “different” the officers take different godforms, some of which would be alien to the image of the Hall of Judgement.
The next most common technique is to replace the godforms of the chiefs with those of the Enochian chess pieces. This seems logical but has several problems. Firstly it elevates Enochian chess to an incredibly high level of importance within the GD, which I am not convinced it ever had. Secondly it only deals with the invisible stations of the chiefs who are a small part of the ritual. This means those who use this system have to incorporate other methods to generate Godforms for different parts of the rituals. Lastly it brings in the use of Godforms whose existence and symbolism was moot, or minor.
The final method has been to go through the ritual and come up with a different method of godforms. How different groups do this is unimportant. What solution they come up with tells much about the flavour that the group is trying to develop. But it does tend to kill off those kids who claim 7=4 and start a temple with “Golden Dawn” in one hand and “Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple” in another. You need to know a fair bit about the system to work out the impact that each Godform is going to have on the candidate at that point in the ritual and that really requires someone who has worked the system for a while.
Perhaps the most important magical tool that Regardie did not know about was the use of diagrams. As I said above this as because he was initiated using a slashed ritual. True, he was presented with some diagrams in the initiations and others appeared in his course packet. But this re-enforced that they were for intellectual stimulation only.
If you believe this, then it is clear why they were removed from the ritual. For a start they make some of the rituals a lot longer. When we installed these within the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea we found that the 4=7, in particular, was a lot longer. Superficially, the candidate is led to one of the diagrams by an officer who appears to read out what was on it. It seems largely pointless. This belief seems to have carried on with some modern Golden Dawn orders who simply slap photocopies of the diagrams on the floor if the temple and casually mention them (many of the candidates are not even aware that they are there). The one exception to this appears to be the elemental tablets which are accorded a high status as magical tools.
However in Whare Ra each diagram was seen like a magical wand and an important part of the ritual. A 6=5 adept Percy Wilkinson once told me that the officer had to use the diagram to stimulate the candidate’s Ruach. For years I wondered what he meant and experimented with sending a ray through the diagram into the candidate’s heart centre. As the idea of the sphere of sensation has greatly influenced my magical practice I do the following. The candidate is shown the diagram, the godform of the officer is extended over the candidate and an image of the diagram is projected onto their sphere of sensation. Depending on the diagram this creates an effect.
This leads me onto the next point. If the diagrams are magical wands then what are they supposed to do. For a long time I assumed that they were providing a set of symbols for the candidate to understand unconsciously. Now I think that the result is much more direct and that the diagram is actually shaping the candidate’s sphere of sensation to bring about change. What is happening then is the elemental grade rituals are a form of psychic surgery where the diagrams shape the candidate’s sphere in their own image.
When you look at the diagrams it seems strange that some of the information is repeated in various grades. For some reason, geomantic figures are shown in all the grades, lineal figures are also shown in different variations, as are tarot cards. We are also shown several different versions of Qlippoth diagrams which feel out of place in an initiation of light.
It seemed to me that the presentation of the geomantic figures tended to enable the energy of the initiation to be earthed so that there would be a physical result from the initiation. The geometric shapes of the lineal figures would cause the candidate’s sphere of sensation to correctly align at a Briatic level. The Qlippothic diagrams which are actually presented with “evil names” spoken out loud are designed so that the sphere of sensation can identify the negative aspects of the grade and control them.
There are many diagrams with trees on them in which planetary symbols are overlayed upon them. The effect of these is to open the sphere of sensation to the implications of planetary force on the personal tree of life.
There are some traditional Golden Dawn diagrams where the magic wand effect must be limited. One “diagram” is basically a shopping list off tarot attributions which would have had limited symbolic effect. There are others which have since gone missing and we have to build them based on their description. In a couple of cases this has proved difficult but must have been resolved by groups that use the full rituals.
There were some other things that were cut from the elemental grade rituals. These included the Hierophant outlining the knowledge that the candidate would have to learn in the grade. This appears to have been cut because it was no longer relevant as the tests covered new and different things. However there was a function of this point of the ritual in that it set the candidate’s sphere of sensation so that it would be adjusted to receive the information in the future. It could have been adapted but when it was used it wasn’t and Bristol cut the lines completely.
There were other things that happened within the elemental grade rituals which Regardie did not know about. These included the separation of the candidate into various “bodies” and the reconstitution after either purification and consecration, or teaching by the various godforms. The extent to which this happened appears never to have been written down and was passed on from Hierophant to Hierophant. Each officer would develop their own system over time with different degrees of success. Jack Taylor in Whare Ra was a case in point. So was Maiya Tranchell-Hayes who taught some of the techniques to Dion Fortune. Pat Zalewski has done some terrific work explaining what happened in Whare Ra. Tony Fuller was also taught by Frank Salt some of his methods. How far these views were “official” would be never know. Some of the older Whare Ra people never knew them however they seem to have been methods that made the grade rituals magical.
All this, with the lack of godforms, leads us to a clear idea why Regardie thought that the elemental grades were useless. In the early 1980s, when he visited Pat Zalewski, he believed that the whole lot could be replaced by his “Opening by the Watchtowers Ritual.” Bristol had managed to remove most of the magical elements and Regardie assumed that was because the grade rituals were not up to scratch. Had he undergone an elemental grade rite in Whare Ra, or even the SM in London a few years earlier he might have felt differently. Certainly doing the elemental grade rituals without Godforms a psychic person would not have been able to feel any atmosphere or power within the temple. Without the magical use of diagrams they could not have created enough changes in the person’s sphere of sensation to bring about change in their environment. It appears that Regardie received some of this oral instruction from somewhere, but certainly not all of it.
What is interesting is some of the modern groups have become aware of the limitations of Regardie and have been looking closely at some of the collected manuscripts searching for clues. I am not certain that this is the answer although it can be helpful. The answer really relies on using the whole ritual and then working with it trying out different techniques to make it all work magically. The answer comes with time and practice and the sure knowledge that things get better with experience. It is only in magical practice that the holes within the Golden Dawn system appear and demand to be filled. It is only amongst those who believe that Regardie is the beginning and end of the Golden Dawn system of magic who will fall into these gaps and take their groups with them.
Missing from the 4=7
On this Tablet, (indicating it) are shown the Paths when arranged with Daath added to, the Sephirotic Tree. It differs from the other and more usual attributions. Furthermore it is not so correct, as Daath is not properly speaking, a Sephirah.
On this Tablet, (indicating it) is shown the arrangement of the Sephiroth in the Four Worlds, each Sephirah with its own 10 Sephiroth inscribed inside, so that the total number is 400, the number of Tau the last letter of the alphabet.
(Hiereus resumes his place. Hegemon leads Practicus to Tablet in South)
This is the symbolism of the Altar of Burnt Offering which King Solomon built. It was formed of a four-fold cube, 20 cubits square and 10 feet high, 10 are the principal parts which you here see classified above, as under the Sephiroth, and forming thus the Triangle of Fire above it.
(Hegemon leads Practicus to Tablet in North)
This is the symbolism of the Brazen Sea, which King Solomon made. It was 10 cubits diameter answering to the Sephiroth; the height was 5 cubits multiplied by the Ternary. Beneath the rim were 300 knobs, the number of the Holy Letter Shin and of the name Ruach Elohim and it stood upon the 12 oxen, answering to the 12 Stars of the Crown of Aima, the Great Mother. It is the synthesis of Binah, containing the Waters of Creation.
(Places Candidate in West facing Hierophant and returns to his own place.)
Missing from the 1=10
Frater < >, before you can be eligible for advancement, to the next grade of 2 = 9, you will be required to pass an examination on the following subjects:
1.Names and symbols of the 3 Principles.
2.Metals attributed to the 7 Planets.
3.The meaning of the special Alchemical terms: Sun, Moon, King, etc.
4.Names and meanings of the 12 Astrological Houses.
5.Names and meanings of the Planetary Aspects.
6.Names and meanings of the Querent and Quesited.
7.The 4 great classes of Astrology.
8.The arrangement of the Tree of Life.
9.The names of the 4 Orders of he Elements.
10.The 3 Pillars of the Tree of Life.
11.The names and forms of the Kerubim
12.Meanings of the Laver, Altar, and Qlippoth.
13.The Names of the 10 Houses of Assiah.
14.Names of the 4 Worlds of the Qabalists.
15.Names of the 22 Trumps and 4 Suits.