The 20th and 21st century has been marked by a rise in religious fundamentalism. It is as if that faced with technology and economic change, the established religions have returned to the comfort of a literal interpretation of their creeds.  The first moves towards religious fundamentalism were started by the Christians in the late 19th century and were copied by the Muslims in the early 20th. (one of the best books to read on the subject its Robert Gilbert’s Cast the First Stone).

6,000 years is nothing

Essentially fundamentalism claims that there is an absolute truth to be discovered within the texts of a religious faith. Often these texts are selected by a panel of other fundamentalists.  Christians fundamentalists are often influenced by verses calling for the death of gay people but ignore other verses in the Bible which are equally as daft. They also believe that the world was created in seven days and is only 6,000 years old on the mistaken belief that the Bible says that. Muslim fundamentalists call for the lowering of status of women, not because the Koran says that, but because the tribal traditions think so.

The payoff for fundamentalism is certainty. You know where you are with your religion because it is written down and you can’t fuck it up. However, it does not favour anyone who thinks, or asks questions.

But this desire to find certainty in an uncertain world contaminates the development of any magical tradition. Wicca, which is more of a religion anyway, has a fundamentalist streak of people who insist that the “burning times” were a fact and that millions of witches were burnt at the stake.

The same applies to the Golden Dawn.

Within the Golden Dawn, you will find those who search for old papers, which are often above their grade anyway, and quote them as an authority for whatever they want to mean. The assumption is that Mathers and Westcott were inspired by god to write the various documents they did with a Biblical authority.

Yet there are some problems with this. It assumes that the Golden Dawn sprang fully formed in 1888 and that there ever was a true paper. The Golden Dawn started out as a re-write of a skeletonic manuscript   called the Ciphers. This envisaged a five-degree system based on the elements and dealing with the lower part of the tree of life.  The ciphers hinted at a 5=6. Mathers banged out a quasi-masonic system, which admitted women, and the whole thing was entirely unmagical. It appeared to have more in common with the SRIA of its day in that there was an opening and closing, testing of knowledge and people provided papers.

Are there any women in the order today?

However it was clear that this was not enough and Mathers then wrote a portal ritual to go with it, however again this was not a magical ritual. A true Golden Dawn fundamentalist who believes that the Cipher documents were the trigger point of the Order would have to say that anything beyond the 4=7 was a heresy. He or she would have to say that Mathers was possessed by an evil force when he attempted to add other grades and bring in MAGIC. And if you think this idea is weird it is something I have heard some people actually say!

It was not until Mathers went to Paris that the magical side of the Golden Dawn was created. Not only was there a vault and a 5=6 ritual the outer order papers were retrofitted with magical instructions called the Z documents.

Theoretically, this would be the high point of the Golden Dawn if you wanted a magical system. If you were going to be a fundamentalist, you would say that these were “perfect.” You would be wrong.

Mathers had not finished writing what would be seen as key Golden Dawn documents until much later. He finished the ThAM papers only a few months before the schism and much of the material you would accept as Golden Dawn came from these papers. If you were to take *this* was the high point for the Golden Dawn Magic System you would fail again.

After the schism, the portal was rewritten by a person, or persons unknown. It turned the god-awful portal ritual into something which magically fitted better as a pivot for the outer and inner order. True this ritual was a little clunky, but it was much better than what went before it. Until I printed Mathers Last Secret, the earlier ritual was mostly unknown, indeed most considered the later ritual as the GD canon.

Secondly, the Second Order of the Golden Dawn stopped at ThAM with no more rituals or teaching. Mathers’ AO and Felkin’s Stella Matutina carried on these grades and fleshed out the some of the earlier teachings.

In essence, the Golden Dawn never had a fundamentalist point in which it was complete and could be used as a complete system. Nor was it possible to point to written cannon of work which was finished.  Papers within the GD were rewritten over time so an earlier paper might be merged into another one, rewritten completely, or abandoned completely. Imagine what this would be like for a fundamentalist Christian if a panel of priests did something similar to the book of Revelation.

The Black Book, some would make this a bible for the Golden Dawn

Some have attempted to enforce a degree of fundamentalism within the GD by saying that the “black book” of Israel Regardie (minus the worthless introduction) should be seen as the Bible of the Golden Dawn and straying from that would be heresy. As Pat Zalewski pointed out in his books, Regardie’s cut down rituals break important parts of the Golden Dawn magical system so using that as your “bible” was unadvisable.

The issue here is that the Golden Dawn as a magical system is evolving.  Because something was written down does not mean that it was perfect or “right.”  It was just based on the information that Mathers and others had at the time.

When the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea withdraw from the Golden Dawn egregore one of the reasons was to separate itself from those who insisted that we limit ourselves to their fundamentalist ravings.  What might give them certainty and comfort, is actually anti-magic and anti-magical development.

Take for example the 5=6. Most people in the Golden Dawn see the 5=6 ritual as the finest thing that Mathers came up with. With its vault, the 5=6 is a truly impressive ritual. When I had to pull apart the 5=6 for MOAA so that I could understand it from a magical perspective, I found next to nothing written about it. What I had to do is gather people’s responses to key parts in the ritual. In the end I had to point someone through the rite and see what happened.

The result was interesting. The ritual worked well and made sense right up to the symbolic death of the candidate. Then it got silly. There were symbols there which were simply wrong, or described in the wrong way and in the wrong place.  Most of the problems could be fixed with an edit or a slight change of technique, but that could not cover the one significant howler.




The candidate has symbolically died and they are led into the tomb to meet their Higher Self in the form of Christian Rosenkreuz. He finds him dead. He touches his dead body and the corpse speaks, but remains dead.  There is no resurrection in the grade.  The candidates lower self is sacrificed and pushed down to the Qlippoth but never has a meaningful awakening with its higher. Lately several modern Golden Dawn people have started to see the problems here and started to tinker with this part of the ritual to make it work properly.

So is there any advantage in being a Golden Dawn fundamentalist? Only if you are a bit dim and like an imagined certainty. But if you want to be a magician you have to accept that every piece of paper you read in the GD is a suggestion for an experiment, rather than meant to be carved on stone.  If you want certainty you should really give up being a Magician because it is all evolving and all changing.




  1. Kitty Ferguson, in The Music of Pythagoras:
    Meanwhile, the acusmatici/mathematici split nevertheless continued to infect the scattered brotherhood, and the disagreement about who reflected the spirit and work of the first Pythagoreans still causes difficulty for anyone trying to discern the truth about that earliest era.

  2. mist42nz

    “Fundamentalism” is an activity within a religion or organisation which decries it’s progress (and thus deviation) from it’s original principles and tenets. Fundamentalism within Christianity, for example, is that True Christianity to return and adhere to the teachings of Christ and the important of him as saviour and sacrificial lamb and messenger of God.

    Orthodoxy is a return and adherence to the rules of Early Church and leaders (as opposed to fundamental teachings of the religion or founders).

  3. Pat Zalewski

    When we look at the word” fundamentalism” outside of its religious context, then we view it in in this instance through its colloquial capacity, which is what Nick is on about and where its Latin originates from. Regardie’s LLewellyn publication work presents us with an excellent overview of the SM system at Bristol in the 1930’s. However, if we test it by checking its component grade ritual parts by comparing it to the Whare Ra papers then we find it lacking in a number of areas such as diagrams, entire parts of rituals left out and no adequate explanation of the rituals -all of which whare ra had.

    I asked Pat Behman in 1983 what they used in her temple and she showed me the Llewellyn volume only -which were inadequate. so I gave her copies of our Whare ra material. This was still not adequate without instruction to go with it and that is where it stands today.

  4. I get that some people like to assume that initiation into the Mysteries removes the old influences of religion and society from the candidate but this is a bit naive really. When you stop to consider that the Hegemon brings the Candidate around in the 0=0 as a guide and representation of what brought him/her to the Mysteries in the first place.

    “Fundamentalism”, in the colloquial sense that Nick uses it is the same across the board because lets be honest if promises uniformity and predictability and we tolerated the bumpy road of initiation this far so surely we deserve a respite. [sic]

    I posted on particular aspects of “traditionalism” in modern paganism a while back: problem is people hone in to their own insecurities around change and as can be evinced in my post the convo was derailed into Wicca and Tradition (capital T) rather than Paganism and Magic with a small tradition.

  5. I’ve been saying for a long time that religion itself is not what breeds hate and division in the world, but the fundamentalism that does. So too with the Golden Dawn. The past few years have fostered the growth of a wide-sweeping community that gets on remarkably well together.

    I would like to suggest, however, that the Adeptus Minor ceremony is not quite so pear-shaped as you might suggest. I find a number of similarities between the Third Degree of the GD/RR+AC and the Third Degree of Freemasonry. In the Master Mason degree, the candidate takes on the symbolic role of GMHA. He is also slain during the ceremony, but when his body is raised from its shallow grave, there is no resurrection there, either. It is still dead, and the M’sW is still lost. The rediscovery of the M’sW, and by implication a symbolic resurrection, is present in the “higher grades” (of both the York and Scottish Rites). I would theorize the RR+AC would reflect a similar process, most likely at the Adeptus Exemptus grade.

    1. The Mandorian

      The point of the ritual is intended to end in death without resurrection. It is a time to dwell on the power of Nothing. Resurrection, Life, Light, Knowledge and Power comes later and can not be obtained without it.


        Afterwards? When the ritual was written there was no 6=5 or 7=4… the 5=6 was the end, Mathers never wrote a full ritual which could provide you with the Resurrection, no 6=5 ritual or 7=4 rite. In short the GD gave you a ritual where your spiritual self was dead, you were dead and there was no hope.. no Resurrection. I don’t think that was his intention but just proof that the 5=6 was probably a work in progress and far from being perfect. If the Order ended at the 5=6 then there HAS to be a resurrection. Issues of power and mystical goals could be easily written where that resurrection was worked in, but Mathers and the GD did not see it. The 0-0 has this theme well worked out. My guess was that a ritual constructed in that way would throw the adept into a dark night of the soul, remove their contact with their higher self and throw them into a position were it would be extremely difficult to learn magic. If you survived this process, and were not in the SM, you would write a cheque to mathers and he would give you a few funny handshakes and the passwords which is not going to solve the mess he created in the 5=6. The 7=4 is the same. The SM at least made more sense but it could be decades after the 5=6 that you would see anything like Resurrection.

  6. FraterEST

    As a Christian Mystic (Not as a GD initiate, which I am not. Nor yet a Freemason), I very quickly started to consider the relation of Tiphareth to Christs resurrection and death to be something of a simplification. Specifically when people tried to relate it to someone pulling SOMEONE ELSE out of a Tomb. To me a distinctive factor in the Jesus resurrection narrative is the fact that its sort of self-propelled, Jesus or God in Jesus resurrects himself. There are other places in the old and new testament where someone is bodily resurrected (without a spiritual change, depending on how you interpret it) and it is performed by someone else particularily a Prophet. I personally relate the death & resurrection as far as something that christ does to/in Daath, whose effects for us are experienced in Tiphareth. I mean that internally/as Christ it would have markers of Daath, and externally or watching Christ it is experienced as a Tipharethic phenomenon.

    One thing I note is that the word anastasis/resurrection in greek means “standing up” and also I think “to raise up”. Julius Evola mentions in his book Introduction to magic that he interprets it to be “The Standing Up Of Corpses”. It is used for both the redeemed and unredeemed dead at the general resurrection if I recall. I think the idea of raising up into the heavens to meet him as per 1 Thessalonians and Revelations has a more elevated sense.

    This links into the distinction between “The Quick & The Dead”, where the quick are those who have sort of gone far enough or all the way that they have conciously died and resurrected while living. Which I then personally tie into Gospel of Phillip, Mount Tabor and other concepts.

    Tentatively then, given my outsider status. I might think of the candidate in masonry (and GD?) as Lazarus and the Initiator/Hierophant as Christ perhaps in sacerdotal rather than immanent fashion.

  7. Pat Zalewski

    I think that fundamentalism in the GD is not necessarily a rigid adherence to what was originally taught and not deviating from it, but taking a stand that the way they do the GD the one true and or only way of looking at the GD. This is what I object to.

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