Mishkan ha-Echad

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Zodiac Colour Wheel

While going through some of my Golden Dawn papers I came across a diagram of two interlaced hexagrams, which show how the colours of the Zodiac signs are obtained. I have reproduced this here so that others wondering why, for example, Scorpio is "green-blue" can see the pattern.


This diagram needs some explanation. The colours of the planets do not entirely match the Golden Dawn's system, either for the King or Queen Scales of either the planets themselves or the Sephiroth to which they are attributed. The problematic ones are Saturn (typically indigo, or if we take the colour of its Sephirah, black), Jupiter (typically violet, though blue is applicable to its Sephirah), Mercury (typically yellow, though orange is applicable to its Sephirah), and Sol (typically orange, though yellow is applicable to its Sephirah). These planetary colours appear largely drawn from the Greater Key of Solomon.

Once we appoint six signs to the planets (Mercury to Gemini, for example), we then have the basic colours in place. The remaining six signs are simply combinations of the two colours on either side. For example, Taurus is between Aries (red) and Gemini (orange), and thus its colour is red-orange.

There are some other names used for some of these combinations, such as indigo for Capricorn, but this is a combination of violet and blue. Likewise, crimson (or ultra-violet crimson) for Pisces is a combination of red and violet, while amber for Cancer is a combination of orange and yellow. 

While the Golden Dawn has not done so, we could arguably call all the mixed colours by another name. For example, the red-orange of Taurus is peach. The yellow-green of Virgo is lime. The green-blue of Scorpio is aquamarine. However, it is easier to remember the colours as combinations of the two colours on either side than a more fancy name.

Most of these match very nicely, but not all appear to match the Golden Dawn's colour scales. Unless the colour scales in Regardie's book contain errors (which is certainly a possibility, and I have not had time to compare them to original documents yet), there is one sign that doesn't add up. Leo is yellow on this colour wheel, but greening-yellow in the King Scale. Everything else appears to largely match.

Please note that the colours displayed in the diagram may differ on your monitor or might not match your definition of the colour. It is provided for illustration only.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Gradations of Adepthood

The word Adept brings a lot to mind, so much so that I believe it necessary to clarify some things regarding Adepts in the Golden Dawn system.

Firstly, using the word Adept on its own is a bit of a misnomer, for the Golden Dawn classified Adepts based on just how much they knew and could do (within the context of the system). Those who are advanced to 5=6 were Adepti Minores, which shows that they are Lesser Adepts, in much the same way there is a Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram before the Supreme Ritual is taught.

Only at 6=5 is an initiate an Adeptus Major and only at 7=4 is he or she an Adeptus Exemptus.

Yet within these lofty grades are a set of sub-grades, which specify even further the level of the initiate. For example, in 5=6 we have the Neophyte Adeptus Minor, Zelator Adeptus Minor, Theoricus Adeptus Minor, Practicus Adeptus Minor, Philosophus Adeptus Minor, and finally Adept Adeptus Minor. All of that is before 6=5 is even approached.

Of course, historically the Order collapsed before anything beyond Theoricus Adeptus Minor was created, and both the Stella Matutina and later Alpha et Omega abolished the sub-grades and moved material to higher grades. Many modern orders, however, have restored these sub-grades and implemented relevant teachings.

The beauty of the sub-grades, beyond the fact that they are useful divisions of content, is that they are somewhat humbling. The new Adept not only has to remind him or herself that he or she is just an Adeptus Minor, but a Neophyte Adeptus Minor. He or she is "newly planted" once more and very much a beginner in the new material he or she will be learning and practising.

The process extends further into 6=5 and 7=4, where the sub-grades may also be employed. Some groups keep these as single grades, but there appears to be some evidence to suggest the Alpha et Omega, at least, adopted sub-grades at these levels in its early years, suggesting this was the intended structure for the Golden Dawn as well.

Thus, when the Adept, who recognises that he or she is a Lesser Adept, has gone through the process of Neophyte to Philosophus within this first Adept grade, and now dons the title of Adept Adeptus Minor, he or she is now faced with being "newly planted" all over again as a Neophyte Adeptus Major. Further still, when the sub-grades of that grade are undergone, it begins again with Neophyte Adeptus Exemptus.

This might seem like an overly complex way of doing things, but it does show that Adepthood is just the beginning, in much the same way a black belt in a martial art is. The Outer Order is preparatory, while entry into the 5=6 does not mark achievement, per se, but rather the start of the quest in earnest towards that achievement.

Thus, when we speak of Adepts in the Golden Dawn system, we might be discussing very different things, or people at very different levels. This does not even take into consideration the vast differences between people, their experiences, their skills, and how dedicated or not they are to the Great Work. All of these factors make for very different Adepts at very different stages of their magical maturity, and even the grade structure itself, evocative as it is, is merely symbolic of spiritual progress that cannot be so easily defined.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Mediums and the Golden Dawn, Part 2

Last year I explored the official view of the Order, spanning several decades, on the topic of mediums, one of the few areas of spiritual practice that was overtly prohibited by the founders of the Golden Dawn.

In fact, while Mathers and Westcott disliked certain other groups (the Lake Harris school, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Rose Croix of Sir Peladan, for example), the Order took a stauncher view on mediumship and related practises, so much so that it became part of the Oath every initiate had to take.

Here I will share some more examples of the Order's views on mediums, which might help clarify the matter and show that it was not a view taken lightly, nor was it only held for a certain period of time or by just one or two people in the Order.

The first example is from Dr. William Berridge, who shows the Order's dislike of mediumship in one of his illustrations of experiences he had:

"A lady, hoping to develop herself spiritually had allowed herself to become passively mediumistic, and her health began to fail.
"On one occasion, feeling very weak, she asked me to mesmerise her. I availed myself of this opportunity, and while apparently only making mesmeric passes over her I occultly surrounded her with a protective aura as in my own case. The result was successful, she improved in strength, and, as a well-known student of occultism observed to me, she looked more human; and with all this, her mediumistic experiences ceased. Had she followed my advice, and held herself positive; I believe she would have fully recovered her health and strength; but she again drifted back into her former condition of passive mediumship, her health broke down, and after a lingering illness, she died."
— Flying Roll V, Some Thoughts on Imagination (Berridge)

Interestingly, Berridge's method of helping the medium in this case was to "mesmerise her." Of course, it does not state that he ever allowed himself to be mesmerised himself, which would have been a violation of the Oath. Berridge's account clearly shows that mediumship was considered dangerous, so much so that it was thought to cause illness and death in this case, despite his efforts to help her cultivate a more active control of her existence.

P.W. Bullock also briefly highlights the views of mediumship as being the opposite of the magical path, since they are passive rather than active, negative rather than positive.

"It will be seen upon consideration that every thought which is creative and positive (as distinct from a passive and mediumistic reflex) must contain, as it were, within itself the complement and completion thereof, i.e. Intuition."
— Flying Roll XXVII, The Principia of Theurgia or the Higher Magic (Bullock)

Mathers was quite clear about his disapproval of mediumship, even warning members to avoid self-hypnosis when performing skrying, since this would open the magician to becoming overly passive. He encouraged members to retain active control of their practises and experiences:

"In using Symbols it is necessary to avoid self hypnotisation, for this occurrence would dispose you to mediumship, and to be the playground of forces you must control, and not permit to control you."
— Flying Roll XI, Clairvoyance (Mathers)

Again Mathers speaks out against self-hypnosis, highlighting the dangers caused by such an approach, which include deception and obsession:

"He or she who is operating should avoid carefully any self hypnotisation by the Tattva, for this will simply lead to foolish and hysteric visions, the offspring of the intoxication of the Operator’s astral sphere by the Tattva."
— Flying Roll XXX, Tattwas and Skrying and Hierophant’s Making 0=0 Signs (Mathers)

For those thinking this was just a focus of Mathers, it is important to note that Westcott fully agreed with him about the dangers of mediumship and the negative or passive atitude:

"So long as you lead an ordinary life you are safe from the assaults of influences beyond the material world of your brother men; but as soon as you get outside of that world and put yourself in a position to seek out occult mysteries, you bring yourself under the action of forces of which you know very little or nothing. The only way to avoid being controlled by such forces, to which you have rendered yourself liable, is to preserve what we call the positive attitude, which is the extreme contrast to what is called mediumship. A medium is one who cultivates negativity and such a person is therefore one to be avoided. The condition we want you to cultivate is that of positivity. I could give you a very good example of a person who is negative and who has got into trouble almost entirely through that."
— Flying Roll IXI, The Aims and Means of Adeptship (Westcott)

Unfortunately Westcott never gives the example, so we do not know who or what he was referring to, but clearly the founders and members were seeing first-hand some of the disastrous effects of such a passive approach to spiritual experience, which is, as he says "the extreme contrast" of the magical approach, where the magician retains active control.

For those thinking the Order changed its mind on this after a period, let us consider the following quote from Monia Mathers, dated July 1926, nearly three decades after the founding of the Order:

"Regarding seers and mediums, as before remarked, our school lays great stress on the simultaneous development of, crudely speaking, the three planes of being, which development must precede psychic experiment. The methods employed to equilibrate the nature entail considerable study, time and patience. There is no royal road to any science, let alone the science of the occult. Before touching such experiments as obtain in spiritualism, the student would be supposed to be in a measure aware of the nature of the entities he would be likely to encounter, and especially to have some idea of the constitution of Man. When this is achieved he will be equipped and enabled to face the many dangers and difficulties he will encounter in the invisible world.
[...]
"Spiritualism is distinctly a Western movement and has certainly been the means of bringing conviction of the after life to many. The methods employed by spiritualists may be very dangerous, in that they frequently lack the preliminary preparation and knowledge necessary before approaching psychic phenomena. The spiritualist who lacks this specialized knowledge must be prepared to encounter all the dangers which explorers in unknown lands are beset. He who enters into these regions has sometimes found it easier to open the door than to close it."
— Moina Mathers, Introduction to The Kabbalah Unveiled (July, 1926)

Ritual V, on the Microcosm, states:

"And this is the reason why there are so many and multifarious errors in untrained spirit visions. For the untrained seer, even supposing him free from the delusions of obsession, doth not know or understand how to unite his consciousnesses and the harmonies between his own sphere of sensation, and the universe, the Macrocosmos. Therefore is it so necessary that the Adeptus Minor should correctly understand the principia and axiomata of our secret knowledge, which are contained in our Rituals and Lectures."

Here it is clear that the Order greatly values and encourages that anyone working with visions or related psychic phenomena is fully trained, to avoid delusion, obsession, and other dangers. The medium, lacking such training, qualifies as an "untrained seer."

In an Order paper providing some description of the meaning of the Tarot cards, we find the following for The Lovers:

"Inspiration (passive and in some cases mediumistic, thus differing from that of the Hierophant and Magician and Hermit.)"

Here we see a direct contrast between the mediumistic approach of passive inspiration to that of the Hierophant, Magician and Hermit, the latter three being cards distinctly tied with the active approach of the magician in the Golden Dawn system, and further representing the Three Magi.

It should be clear by this stage that mediumship was not approved of in the Order, a fact that has been stated numerous times by scholars and historians (see, for example, page 33 of R.A. Gilbert's The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians). This is not to say that the Order disapproved of psychic activity in general (such as skrying and clairvoyance), as it clearly taught and encouraged this, when the initiate was ready for it and properly trained. 

The magical path, however, is a very different one to the passive path of the medium, and the wise magician prepares with theory, arms with knowledge, tests with the Divine Names, signs and symbols, and retains active control of all voyages in unknown territory, lest he or she be lost in a sea of illusion or delusion, or hand over power to other people or other beings, and so lose that which makes them human, and that which might help them better come to know and understand the divine.