The Golden Dawn has an unusual attitude to Gods, which can be best described as an intellectual abstraction which is disconnected from their god status.
During a 0=0 ceremony, the Heirophant creates a battery of Egyptian godforms which matches the Book of the Dead. These were closer to thought forms, because in most cases the officers, who were unorthodox Christians, would not have considered them “real” in any sense of the world. Each god would be dressed in a specific way which would allow them to reflect the colours and powers of the Golden Dawn system, rather than any attachment to ancient Egypt.
These godforms acted like thought forms which effected change within the candidate's sphere of sensation by virtue of the fact that they resonated to certain ideas.
|Horus the Elder|
For this to work, Mathers had to make up a couple of godforms to get what he wanted. Thus you end up with godforms for the Dadouchos and Stolisties which are extensions of Maat, but were unknown in Ancient Egypt. Over the centuries we have come to understand a lot more about Ancient Egyptian gods and some of the ones in the Golden Dawn ritual have different meanings from their real counterparts. For example Aroeris, or Horus the Elder, who the Golden Dawn connects with an active form of Osiris has really nothing to do with him. Aroeris was a pre-dynastic sky god who He was the son or husband of Hathor and was considered to be a creator god and the archetypal king. He was the brother of Set, and Osiris and was a creator god, the falcon who flew up at the beginning of time. His right eye was the sun and his left eye was the moon and images of the "Eye of Horus" were considered to be powerful protective amulets. His speckled feathers formed the stars and his wings created the wind.
True, he was associated with wars with Set, he became more Solar, and merged with the latter when the Isis and Osiris legend took hold of Egypt. But he was was a completely different God and certainly not a “more active Osiris.” If you were going to say that Horus was a counterpart of anyone on the floor of the 0=0 it would be the Hireus and not Osiris.
This would be unimportant if you relied on the Godforms as simply thought forms. However, occult philosophy has also developed over the last 100 years and thinking about Gods has changed.
Some of this work was carried out by Dion Fortune and the line which extended from her, manifesting through Bill Gray, Alan Richardson, Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, and Josephine McCarthy.
The current thinking is not that these forms are abstract beings, but rather they are living entities which continue to function long after their worship is stopped. While they do not require worship from occultists, they still want their work to continue and, with the correct handling, are useful to us. These are intelligent vortexes of power which can genuinely transform. Many magicians have approached these gods for help with their magical projects. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they say they would like to, but the work does not fit properly with their powers. Others fit a role really well when you do not expect it and an aspect of their power which was previously unknown becomes obvious.
With the rise of the neo-pagan movement, many Golden Dawn magicians are coming to the system with a religious connection of some kind with some of these Gods – Bast, Sekmet, Anubis and Isis are pretty popular. This is starting to prevent the use of such Godforms as the abstract thought-forms envisaged by Mathers. An experienced officer who works with Anubis on a daily basis creates a much stronger Kerux than one who does not.
The loss of the intellectual thought-form idea is not such a bad thing. The Gods themselves have a useful part to play within the 0=0 and can make the ritual more theomagical and it would be better to encourage the development of contact with these ancient Gods to improve the ritual.
However this then creates a problem in that some of the intellectual patches that Mathers installed within the rituals suddenly do not work. True, you can still think of the active and passive aspects of Maat as Dadouchos and Stolisties, although seeing them as separate godforms is inaccurate. It is better to bring in more accurate fire and water goddesses. Likewise you cannot see Osiris as Aroeris because he is standing up.
On the plus side, the group starts to tap into something which has been built by countless worshippers over a long period of history.
A lot more work still needs to be done to see if these godforms can be dressed within the more narrow conceptions of Mather's thought-forms. If they agree, and they can follow the ritual, then you are creating a much more powerful form of initiation and developing the more Theurgic aspects of the Golden Dawn.
This is an area for research. There will be many who say that the Golden Dawn system of godforms is perfect and does not need touching. But in my view it is one worth looking at.