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Friday, 9 April 2010

Diagrams in the Golden Dawn

For many years I have been working in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn where few of the diagrams of the Golden Dawn where used in the initiation rituals.  This is because the HOGD and many modern Golden Dawn orders were based on the rituals printed by Israel Regardie just before the Second World War in his Golden Dawn book.
The Bristol temple was going through a phase of removing parts of the ritual it did not understand or felt were cumbersome and the versions of the rituals that Regardie experienced were these cut down rite. The candidate still saw the diagrams, they were given to him or her during their course work and that was felt to be enough.
When deciding on the rituals of the Magical Order of Aurora Aurea I felt that we should return to the Whare Ra rituals. Whare Ra was the last surviving order of the Golden Dawn, closing its doors in the late 1970s. I worked with some of the people in that temple after it closed and know the magical depths they managed to find within the Golden Dawn system.
Going through the old rituals, I was surprised at quite how many of the diagrams there were which have to be presented to the candidate. Some were obvious, some I had seen and some were a complete mystery. Some diagrams even appeared to be repeated or the information duplicated across several grades. In each case the diagram was explained by the officer, often extending the length of the ritual considerably.
Part of me started to agree with Bristol and think they should be edited out. After all how can a candidate who has undergone an initiation that means anything actually stand, let alone comprehend the subtleties of a dozen diagrams.
I had been following a few threads on the various diagrams and decided that what ever happened they were important for a reason unknown and the Magical Order of the Aurora would use them in its initiations.
One thing we did do was to use the godforms associated with the diagrams to over shadow the candidate during the speeches and to link the diagram to the candidate's sphere of sensation. I thought that this would be fairly tame and a sensible magical use of the them.
However during psychic observations of the use of the diagrams in the initiations we started to notice that they were doing something more than we thought. Firstly the godforms appeared to be teaching the candidate something in connection with the tablet while the speeches were taking place. Secondly the godforms appeared to use the tablets magically to change the candidate's sphere of sensation. In several cases we heard a clicking sound when some people were exposed to the tablets as their sphere of sensation was re-orientated.
This was interesting so I returned to the rituals to note where some of the confusing diagrams apppeared. Perhaps the strangest was the Geomantic Diagrams which were scattered throughout the GD rituals. However if these diagrams were part of a huge psychic operation which is taking place on the candidate's sphere of sensation over several rituals their function becomes more than simply providing intellectual information. Geomancy works with the Earth spirits so in the initiation it is sealing and earthing the different components of the psychic operation. This is particularly so in the 4=7 when the candidate is shown something which tells them how to build an Earth talisman. Pat Zalewski was the first to spot the fact that when Mathers converted the the Cipher manuscripts so that the geomantic symbols used in the talisman were Rubeus and Puer. It made sense in some respects in that the path where the candidate is exposed to this particular talisman is on a Luna path and Mathers wanted to hint at the feiry Mars aspect of the Moon. The fact that he changed it is crucial because it says he recognised that the presentation of the diagram would have a magical effect. Unfortunately he was being a little too clever by half. The author of the Cipher documents said that the talisman should be Rubeus and Admissio. The fusion of these two geomantic symbols would be to negate the destructive aspects of Rubeus and allow the positive flow of love. This path after all is a move towards Netzach and very appropriate to the idea of the Moon under the influence of Mercy.
So it appears to be fairly clear that an operation is taking place here and not simply the masonic presentation of intellectual knowledge.
Take another example. Several times the candidate is shown various versions of the geometric shapes, in different guises. The information could be worked out the first time you see the diagram so why do you get a reprise for the second and third times. My suggestion would be that this is giving the sphere of sensation instructions in an energy form that it can use them to communicate but also crystallising parts of the sphere of sensation so that they fit to those shapes.
All this is fairly good magic covered under a dry intellectual shield. If the diagrams, such as tarot, have the effect of shaping the sphere of sensation then it becomes crucial that they are used and presented to the candidate.
But the diagrams also have another function in the temple. When they are not being showed to the candidate they act as invisible stations for power. This makes their placement important as it is possible to see lines of force between them. Remember that in an initiation the temple represents the candidate's sphere of sensation so these focal points become crucial.
With these diagrams being restored to the position of magical weapons their power becomes obvious. However this does raise some pretty obvious questions. The first is why did the Bristol temple think that ditching the diagrams was a good idea?
It is quite likely that in various times in its history the Golden Dawn has degenerated. The magical meaning behind the rites has been lost. While Felkin's Whare Ra remained on the ball there was no-one to check what the “provinces” were doing. There is an inherent trend within the Golden Dawn to kill off its magic side, or at very least, not study it. When this happens an order goes through the rituals and the motions of a working order without it being one. Diagrams, which superficially appeal to the Intellect are easily dismissed for what they appear to be, rather than what they really are.


  1. Great post Nick!

    I am glad the Magical Order of Aurora Aurea are using the original diagrams. We were always taught they were to be used in a talismanic way. Further to your discussion we were also taught that they were activated by the presence of the officer “showing” the diagram to the candidate. And also much of the transmission of the “teaching” and blessings of the diagram was controlled and directed by the officer via her touch of the candidate during the speech. In some cases the touch is via a grip throughout the outer speech. In other cases it is via a few simple touches at particular moments or movements within the candidate’s sphere of sensation.

    I am interested in the Magical Order of Aurora Aurea’s use of colour in these Outer Order diagrams. We were taught the original GD diagrams were very basic; either black and white or occasionally black, red and white. The flashing colours were never used – and there is a clause from the Inner initiations referring to them directly. A Sydney temple I know of still uses this approach. In the temple I helped found in Perth, we modified this approach and used the flashing colours since they are now used and available even outside the tradition. We had good results but I do not have enough personal data to compare the two approaches. Do you?

    Your point about the diagrams being used in a systematic way throughout the entire Outer Order process is really important. This is a mark of the true genius of the GD and I have long tried to make clear that the Outer Order grades can, in once sense, be seen as a single initiation or magical operation spread over several ceremonies and years. Many of the ‘strange’ or dissonant aspects of the ceremonies and even the Knowledge Lectures become clear when we approach the tradition in this unified way and with an eye open for the subtle, though powerful, magical mechanisms within it. There is so much in even the Outer GD, the initiation ceremonies can perhaps be viewed as scripture and each performance of them as exegesis bringing out new meaning, depth and spiritual realization. They are inexhaustible in their wonder and blessings.

    Thanks again for the post :)

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  3. Hi Perigrin
    Yes the Aurora Aurea uses the flashing colours for most of the diagrams. The reason for this is part of the evolution of the GD and in some respects humanity. While the original GD and Whare Ra used black and white for most of its diagrams this was a different society. I used to think it was a move to emphasis the vault and the colour teachings of the second order. But then it occurred to me that when the GD first appeared there was no second order so it was not to protect a colour system it was simply the way of doing things.
    However I dont see a problem in showing colour provided that we do not teach it. In this we are using all the magical techniques in our armoury for a candidate's initiation to make sure it has the maximum effect.
    It does make a big difference. The candidate is aware that they are experiencing something magical rather than simply a drawing copied from a book.

  4. Hi SR
    I am inclined to believe Tony that they reverted back to the SM rituals. After Regardie published the cut down ones they could go back to the old secret ones and knowing that they had not been "profaned". I use the term loosely because I doubt that there are many magicians who could take the Regardie book and make a real Golden Dawn connection. It requires taking lots of different things, teachings, inner connections and knowledge to make that equation. But cutting a third of the ritual is not a good start.

  5. Hi again Nick,

    thanks for clarifying. Your reasoning is very similar to ours when we started our little temple and used the colours in the Outer. It is nice to know we are not alone in our thoughts :) Naturally we have dropped that clause from the Inner oath, and I assume you have also.

    There was an Order in Perth in the 80s headed by an English SIRA chap which used the rituals from the original Regardie as they were published. I never advanced beyond 1=10 in that Order before it closed, but even at 1=10 the defiencies in the Regardie redaction are noticeable. That said, I do think some folk in that order would say it provided a real Golden Dawn connection. How, I'm not sure...but I'm not sure about a lot, really. Ta :)

  6. Hi Nick,
    Your research and valuable insights are interesting and definitely worth exploring further. But my concern is that enough time hasn't been given for tentative research into how powerfully these new symbols affect the Candidate over the long-term. We know from the HOGD that very few who start out on this path make it to the Portal - the 4=7 in particular can be a viscious time for the Candidate, and that is without any changes to the ceremony.
    A Candidate's sphere of sensation isn't a blank canvas but is already a complicated instrument that has brought him or her to the GD path, and should be handled with the utmost of care. The very fact that the original Golden Dawn never survived should make us very careful on bringing in too much too soon without thorough testing.

  7. Hi Harry
    I take your point. The only thing that we are doing "new" here is using coloured diagrams. The use of diagrams is part of the real GD tradition. The use of colours makes the experience of the diagrams more intense. However most of the experience that many of us have with the 3=8 and 4=7 might be because we never used the diagrams at all. We suffered from the balancing and teaching effect being stripped out of the order by the Bristol temple. It is my belief that without the diagrams the elemental force comes flooding into the temple and reacts with the psyche of the candidate. This causes the fall out. However the diagrams channel that energy so that it manifests in the candidate's sphere of sensation in a much more balanced way. The use of the diagrams and the colours have resulted in dramatic initations that have resulted in change for the people involved. However it seems to be less negative. Sure people have their bad experiences, but it seems they are usually also given the way of dealing with them.
    My feeling is that black or white or colour would not change this process. However I feel colour is more effective in providing that magical tool

  8. Hi Nick, I just wanted to say how impressed I was by your article of the olympic spirits in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition. Both the content and the use of colour in the Olympic seals realy captivated me. I am a member of a GD group in Brisbane Australia that uses Ware Ra material that we obtained from Pat Z. The use of colour in the olympic seals really brings them to life energeticaly and I plan to experiment with other GD symbols along these lines with my own personal work.

  9. Thanks Edward. Colour is optional with the spirits, but I find they work really well

  10. Great post.... I have two of the original decks and The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot ... Some may have already posted but when will the deck be made available ./....

  11. We are hoping to have it finished by next year. I am going to have to start work on the book soon