The Three Chiefs of the Golden Dawn
The Three Chiefs of the Golden Dawn

The Three Chiefs of the Golden Dawn

hy the Past Hierophant needs to get the boot

The top table of chiefs are composed of the Imperator, the Cancellarius and Praemonstrator. The Hierophant is also supposed to sit between them and behind him sits the Past-Heirophant.
Throughout the history of the Golden Dawn little work has been done about the magical function of these officers. Instead the titles are seen as mostly administrative. The person who fancies themselves in charge of the group takes the role of Imperator because it means “the person who rules” and it gets to stick them on a throne above all the others dressed in bright red and holding a jolly big sword.

However this ego stroke shows the ignorance of the system and the belief that it was an Imperator that ran the Order. In the original GD these officers were not seen and their function was not discussed by the great unwashed. The Hierophant’s throne was between a half open curtain and that was all that could be seen of these officers. If there was any dance of the ego it was conducted behind closed doors or curtains.
There were three important officers on the top table and one, the Heirophant which moved between the three.

The three represented the three pillars on the tree of life, the alchemical principles, Fire, Air and Water and the gods Nepthys, Thoth and Isis. The Hierophant (and the candidate) represented Osiris, Salt and Malkuth, and Earth.
But what does all this mean?
There are three great currents which come into the 0=0 ceremony from the withdrawn orders which are personified by the three chiefs. For the sake of identification I will call these the Nephsys, Thoth and Isis current. Their function is to rebuild and empower Osiris.
Nephsys is water and Mercury. Her function is to alchemically separate (ie desolve) the candidate during the various processes of the 0=0. She is the force of putrefaction which takes place after death. She is also the purifier. Isis is fire and sulfur and the consecrating force which alchemically binds the candidate. Thoth is the quintessence the force which unites the forces of Sulphur and Mercury and thus resurrects Osiris.
These three rays take up a third of the temple each. Every time a candidate or an officer (with their godform) enter into those temple sectors they are working with and interacting with those rays. Thus when the candidate enters the temple in the West the first thing that happens to them is that they are broken down by the Nepthys force so that they can be rebound by the Isis force and raised up under the Thoth ray. The work of the 0=0 therefore can be said to be using the “Solve et Coagula” maxim of the alchemist.
This means then that the circumambulations where the candidate crosses the three lines of force mirror the alchemical processes of dissolve and bind. These transmutions are carried out by Maat and Anubis as they lead the candidate around the temple. They are also a factor at the various points where the candidate is stopped.
Also it is interesting to note that when Sulphur is mixed with Mercury and baked it creates a vermilion powder which was the basis for red paint. It makes sense of why the Hierophant wears red and how the action of the Imperator and the Praemonstrator bound by the power of the Cancellerious manufacture within the order the “created fire and the uncreated (or hidden) fire” which powers the Hierophant.
The Hierophant then takes his power from these three rays which are manifested throughout the grade rises of the outer order. He is the salt, or material result of their action and hopes to pass on these powers to the candidate.
To me this answers the question as to whether the Hierophant should sit in front of the officers or in a line with them. He should be on an apex of triangle which the base line is the Imperator, the Cancellarius and the Praemonstrator. He should be seated in front of the Cancellarius who provides him with the middle pillar of air and the powers of the quintessence which he is expected to manifest into the the temple of Maat.
The question about all this is what has all this work got do with the post of “past-heirophant”?. In Whare Ra this job was basically to assist the Hierophant in bringing in all the energy into the temple and to effectively sit in his chair as Osiris when the Hierophant was running around being Aroueris. He is Aroueris when the Hierophant is sitting down. The question is, is this role really required as it breaks a lot of very important symbols on the top table. You lose the idea of the tree of life, you lose the trinity, because four officers do not mean the same thing as three.
The role, while an interesting idea, is not mirrored with other officers. Just because the Heirus stands up there is not a past Heirus to fills the passive role while the officer is active on the floor.
Since none of the chiefs roles are contained in the Cipher manuscripts it means that they are the invention of Mathers and Westcott. While the idea of three chiefs shows some alchemical genius, the use of four does not. In fact it shows the influence of freemasonry. In freemasonry once someone has passed through the chair they are given a past master title. They are supposed to assist the current master in their role. Sound familiar? However it is just another officer and a sop to the lost status which is afforded to the new master of the lodge.
Magically it does little which is not done elsewhere and actually messes with the tree of life and alchemical symbolism which is much more important. When I started to question the role of the past Hierophant I noticed that with the officer sitting on his desk there are actually 11 officers. Praemonstrator, Cancellarius, Imperator, Hierophant, Past Hierophant, Hegemon, Hierus, Dadouchos, Stolistes, Kerux and Sentinel. While this is a little superstitious, it is not a desirable number of officers to have, since it represents the qlippoth, whereas ten indicates the sephiroth. Given this, I think it is probably better that the past Hierophant is handed his P45 and pink slip and told that in a magical order we don’t really need to create senior jobs to avoid upsetting people who can’t be Hierophant any more.


  1. Great post, Nick. Thanks.

    There is little doubt to my mind that the Past Hierophant position stems from the Masonic tradition. That said, magically I was taught that the PH has much inner work to do. More in the so called elemental ceremonies that the Neophyte. I am very interested in your analysis here and would love to try to practically one day 🙂

    As for numbers, it kinds depends on how and who one counts, but one method of counting has the total number of Godforms in the Hall of Maat as 22 (including candidate). Bumping off the PH could spoil that too.

    As for the diagram…maybe your antipodean origins are spoiling the broth a little by half reversing the Hall? 🙂

  2. This could be possibly be the most naive way of looking at things but even if the P.Hierophant is a official role brought in via masonic structures is a possible that this officer’s position may simply be on the base-line with the two other Chiefs but not connecting to their task of forming the triangle with the Hierophant?

    Or what if the triangle itself is formed with P.Hierophant and the two other Chiefs with the energy being directed through the current Hierophant while they initiate the candidate.

    Basically allowing for less multitasking? Again my understanding is rather limited and I’m not completely sure of the processes behind that proverbial veil so I’m really just postulating here.

  3. Hi SR
    What I was meaning was that there is a “masonic way” of looking at the Golden Dawn rituals which I do not believe is appropriate. True the GD might have had its roots within fringe masonry, but that does not make it a masonic order. I believe that the GD has gone far beyond its masonic roots and has much more magical goals. I belonged to a practical mystical masonic lodge for many which was continuously having battles with Grand Lodge because it was interested in the practical mystical applications of masonry. For a ritual element to work it has to be viable within its own context. It cannot be nailed on because “that is how the masons do it”. Within the GD things have to be done because that is how the GD does things.
    For example the presentation of diagrams which I looked at in a previous post can be seen in a masonic way ie “here is a diagram” “here is a long speech about the diagram” move on. Or it can be seen in a magical way with the godforms interacting within the sphere of sensation etc. Within the GD there has always been this split between those who see the masonic (sometimes mystical way) and those who see it as magic process. I am in the magical camp looking for magical reasons.

    1. The original TRIUMVIRATE, Mathers, Woodman and Westcott, were all 32° Scottish rite, and past MAGI or Junior MAGI of the SRIA. Those are not fringe Masonry. The 32° of Morals and Dogma is the primary degree related to MAGIA, almost completely exerpted from LEVIS’ work.
      The colors are reversed on your posted diagram. Gevurah should be RED, but the pillar of Fire is YOD (FIRE) and ISIS is Water not Fire. Otherwise, interesting comments that should be explored further.

  4. Ave Nick,

    Caught this a little late but it’s very thought-provoking, thanks for posting!
    I’m wondering how an arrangement like this would affect/change the 2nd and 3rd Adepts in Portal. Would you give the salt wand to the Chief Adept and a mercury wand to the 2nd Adept? Giving the Chief the salt wand instead of the pentagram represents a pretty dramatic shift in the symbolism when you chew on it a little bit.


  5. I am not sure you would need to do anything so drastic. The three chiefs as they exist are in the grades 0=0 to 4=7. My feeling at the moment is that all bets would be off when you hit portal because this is a fusion of a second order and first order rite and be neither. In fact in this process it would be very important that the Chief adept be the quintessence a function which is laid back a bit in the outer order.

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