Mishkan ha-Echad

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Adeptus Minor Sash

When many in the modern Golden Dawn community first encountered the 5=6 sash worn by W.B. Yeats, which is on display at the National Library of Ireland, it presented what appeared like a very unusual design, with some suggesting that Yeats added symbols of his own. Even today it is often called the "Yeats sash," as if it was entirely unique to him.

Yeats' 5=6 sash (© National Library of Ireland)

The reality, however, is that this sash design is actually the official one, and was what all original Order members used, not the typical version we see all over the internet today. For example, here is Aleister Crowley's one:

Aleister Crowley's 5=6 sash

In case one might think this is a fluke, there are several other surviving sashes from original Order members, including ones attributed to A.E. Waite and W.A. Ayton, dated to c. 1892, the year when the Inner Order was formally established. There is even one from around 1920. All of these bear the exact same design as the one Yeats wore.

Furthermore, the original GD Portal ritual (which differs greatly to the SM version popularised by Regardie's book) describes the sash as follows:

"... white bordered with gold with the emblems of the 5=6 grade embroidered in gold thereon, and also those of the 24th, 25th, and 26th paths attributed to this grade."

While the above description does not make it clear what these "emblems" are, it does show that they are all gold, whereas the popular rendition of the 5=6 sash employs a red cross, red 5 and 6, and no path numbers at all (which breaks the trend set by the Outer Order sashes, where the path numbers are all employed on the sash).

So where did the design for the more familiar version come from? It was part of Westcott's original designs for the Inner Order sashes, in a document entitled Second Order Insignia, dated to 22 June, 1892.

In this document, Westcott draws designs for the 5=6, 6=5, and 7=4 sashes, as well as outlining plans for the jewels of the 5=6 sub-grades. Those who achieved the sub-grade of Adept Adeptus Minor (and only this sub-grade, not any of the preceding ones) were to receive "a different sash to the ordinary 5=6 members," which was to be born crosswise over the ordinary 5=6 sash.

Westcott then proceeds to describe this sash for Adept Adeptus Minor, and, lo and behold, it is the 5=6 sash we are all familiar with. Of particular note is the employment of the colour red for the cross and numbers of the grade, "to show the link with Geburah."

Adept Adeptus Minor sash design by Westcott

This sash, therefore, is not incorrect, per se, but it is designed, at least originally, for those who have fully completed the 5=6 sub-grade curriculum, and are, as it were, candidates for the 6=5 grade, attributed to Geburah. Before then, at the lower sub-grade levels, the use of red upon the sash could be seen as somewhat jumping the gun.

As for the provenance of the design used for ordinary 5=6 members, it is possible it was created by Mathers, who wrote the Portal ceremony, and who would have clearly understood the importance of adding the numbers of the paths. Alternatively, it may have been designed years previously by Westcott. After all, there were those who were nominal 5=6 members before Mathers wrote the 5=6 ceremony, so it is possible the sashes were in use earlier than 1892.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Golden Dawn Books Galore

This month sees the release of several major books relating to the Golden Dawn, or of interest to Golden Dawn magicians. Check them out, and make sure to order your copies.

This book has earned wide acclaim across the GD community. For those of you interested in the Limited Hardback Edition, there are only a couple left for sale at Kerubim Press. Otherwise, you can order the paperback edition on Amazon here.

A long-awaited book showcasing the original Tarot designs of the Golden Dawn, along with other previously unreleased material. All in full colour. A must-have for those interested in both the historical and practical aspects of the Order. It can be ordered on Blurb here.

A new journal for the Western Mystery Tradition, edited by Nick Farrell. This issue contains articles by many well-known Golden Dawn magicians, including Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Aaron Leitch, Christine Zalewski, and Jayne Gibson, among many others. It can be ordered on Lulu here.

Wishing you all warm fraternal regards on this Autumnal Equinox.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Admission Badge: Greek Cubical Cross

To answer a question on the Golden Dawn Forum, I drew up the following image to show the placement of the Hebrew letters on the Greek Cubical Cross. I thought I'd share it here for others interested in where the letters go.

The image can be printed out, cut to shape (ensuring the blank squares are cut out) and then folded up to form the cross. This can then be used as a guide for painting a more solid construct.

The above placement, which the original Order used, has the three mother letters down the centre of the front, with Fire (Shin) above, Water (Mem) below, and the reconciling Air (Aleph) between them. The two letters on either side of this are the Moon (Gimel) on the left and the Sun (Resh) on the right.

The back of the cross has the remaining five letters related to the planets, while the 12 simple letters, relating to the zodiac, are placed around the sides.

To avoid confusion, note that some modern groups assign the letters differently.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Importance of the Past Hierophant

As a lodge-based system, the Golden Dawn is essentially crafted within the framework of Freemasonry, with an additional layer of magic placed upon those foundations. These Masonic roots are not hard to find, with everything from the officer structure to the grip, step and passwords of the grades stemming from earlier tradition.

Some of these elements have an obvious function, where their symbolic purpose and magical application was explained in detail. Others may appear to have no purpose at all, which has led to some modern magicians calling for them to be axed from the rituals. The Past Hierophant is the classic example of this.

On the surface, the Past Hierophant appears to do very little. He or she sits to the left of the Hierophant on the dais, watching the proceedings, contributing to the visualisations and inner workings of the ritual.

One important duty of the Past Hierophant is to build up the godform of Aroueris upon the Hierophant when he or she is moving (for the godform of Osiris never leaves the dais). 

However, the Past Hierophant is also important for another major reason. The entire Hall of the Neophyte is mapped to the lower half of the Tree of Life, making every placement symbolically and magically important. The dais officers are not mere observers, but mark the places of five paths, with Past Hierophant on the path of Nun.

This can be seen clearly in the floor plans that were given to members of the original Order and its offshoots. I include a sample of one of these surviving documents below, while Crowley gives a crude example in The Equinox.

This alone makes it pivotal that the office of Past Hierophant remain, because without this officer we would be axing a path on the Tree of Life. Reshuffling the other officers is no solution, because they stand on important paths of their own. There are five upon the dais for a reason.

Part of the beauty of the Golden Dawn system is that nothing is arbitrary. Everything has a purpose, and even though we may not know that purpose initially, with study and practice we may uncover it in time. The consistency and coherency of the system is dependent on every element within it, so moving or removing one can easily upset or unsettle the others, and lead to other repercussions.

For those interested in delving deeper into the Masonic roots of the Golden Dawn, I highly recommend getting a copy of Frater YShY's forthcoming book Adept Magic in the Golden Dawn Tradition, which includes some interesting material in this area. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Four-letter Names and the Four Directions

Many people wonder why the various names used in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram were chosen over other alternatives, particularly when it comes to a name like AGLA, a notariqon of Atah Gibor leh-Olam Adonai ("Thou art mighty forever, O Lord."), which appears to have largely been selected because it has four letters.

It is not difficult to understand the idea that since there are four directions, and thus there must be four names, that this motif would be continued in the formation of the names themselves. It is, after all, a continuation of the mystery of YHVH, the first name employed.

But there is another reason that these must be four-letter names. If we look at the Hebrew names for the four directions, we have the following: Mazrach (מזרח) for East, Darom (דרום) for South, Ma'arav (מערב) for West, and Tzaphon (צפון) for North.

The astute student will immediately notice that these are all four-letter names. Thus the most resonant names for the four directions should also have four letters, for it creates a sympathy between them that enhances their meaning and potency.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Occult Obsession

Obsession is something that occurs in all walks of like, but doubly so within the occult world, where there are many things to fixate upon, and many ways for the magician to lose control and end up being controlled by outside forces. Mathers and Westcott frequently issued warnings about this.

A student might, for example, feel a special affinity with a number. Let us say 10, since it is the number of Sephiroth. Then they might start to obsess about it, seeing it everywhere, and thinking there is some greater significance than that which they are affording to it from their own behaviour. They suddenly note that they stopped reading a book on page 10 (despite ignoring that they stopped on page 6 the night before), keep noticing the number 10 bus (despite ignoring all the hundreds of other numbered buses they encounter perhaps more frequently), and start to let the number rule their life. Then the occult meaning is irrelevant, as the true value of the relevant teachings of that number have been supplanted by a kind of paranoia.

Numbers are particular foci for people within the occult community, thanks to the importance of gematria (a system that is much abused, leading many occultists to force meaning where there is none). Someone may glance at the clock at 11:11 and think it significant, or they might stop on page 93 of a book and see it as a sign. In numerous cases, the more they appoint significance to these encounters, the more these encounters appear to happen (or, rather, the more they notice them, at the expense of noticing all the other numbers that are deemed less significant). 

This is particularly common with numbers that have strong esoteric associations, like the number 93 of Thelema. In answer to this, some have attempted to give the Golden Dawn a special number, employing 120 due to its Rosicrucian associations (Post 120 annos patebo), but I disagree strongly with the search for a single number of importance, when instead we should seek to learn from all of the numbers, and never be ruled by one of them.

This is why even meditation upon and skrying of symbols requires much care and many safety techniques. It might seem harmless at first to think of a special affinity with, for example, the symbol of Venus, but if it stops becoming a means to an end (the acquisition of greater knowledge and understanding), and instead becomes the end itself, the focus and fixture of the mind, it becomes a detriment more than a stepping stone to greater things.

Indeed, even a positive and protective symbol like the pentagram can be obsessed over, leading Moina Mathers to write: 

"Once the symbol has been clearly traced, it is better not to think of it too much; for the Neophyte ought not to permit himself to become obsessed by any Symbol."

Monday, 6 January 2014

Golden Dawn Motto Guidelines

A common question asked by those new to the Golden Dawn system is how to come up with a motto. While there is no step-by-step process, there are a few guidelines that Candidates might consider:

The first is that it should represent your spiritual/magical aspirations. Therefore, you should consider something positive, and consider something of an overarching goal. Your motto usually stays with you. For example, even when someone takes a new motto at 7=4, they still keep their 5=6 motto (at least within the context of an order).

The second is that it should be in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, or a similar language traditionally employed in the Mysteries. You should generally avoid a language you will be speaking every day. Latin is traditionally the preferred choice. It is ideal to keep the phrase short, with perhaps four or five words maximum (though a single word can also be used).

The third is that you should spend some time meditating on this, looking through dictionaries, directories of classical mottoes, etc. There is no one single right way to come across a relevant motto choice. Some people use established mottoes, which they might have read in a book or received from their family, while others translate a phrase themselves (which can be risky, depending on their knowledge of the language's grammar).

The fourth is that the motto is a personal choice. It should therefore be chosen by you, not anyone else. I am aware that at least one GD order chooses mottoes for people, but this is certainly not traditional, and, in my opinion, certainly not recommended. No matter what grade someone is, they have no right to decide what your aspirations should be.

The fifth follows on from the fourth, in that the motto should be chosen for its applicability, not to emulate another magician. Some people pick a well known motto used by Crowley, for example, but this somewhat diminishes their own persona, since they are identifying too much with another magician. It does not matter how good a previous magician was—we are here to forge our own paths. This said, it is possible to accidentally pick the same, or a similar, motto to a lesser known member of the Order, and this is fine, since it was not a deliberate choice to emulate that person, and the fact that they are less well known will limit the possibility of people thinking of that person when they hear your motto.