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Wednesday 20 July 2011

Inner and Outer

Since the Second World War, thanks to the efforts of Dion Fortune and her followers, magic has moved from doing things on the material level (while hopefully looking above) to working on the Inner Levels. This has been more noticeable in the UK, where Fortune's off-shoots have ruled the roost. As Marian Green once said “we are making beautiful temples and then going into them and shutting our eyes”.
Having trained in the Dion Fortune tradition, I can see its advantages and flaws. On the plus side it encourages the development inner vision to see what is really going on. However it lacks a lot of the personal development work which is required from, say, the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn. While it is true that these Inner Landscapes do encourage the knowledge of one's self, in practice this does not happen. People are too often taught that what they are seeing is “real” when a lot of the time it is subjective.
True, inner work ultimately leads to an objective reality, but within such groups the subjective reality often takes people on flights of sub-luna fantasy which is never checked. Visions which should be treated for psychological examination by the person, to discover more about themselves, end up as fantasy stories becoming touted as scientific or historical fact. Inner Plane contacts become psychological mothers and fathers demand an “unreserved dedication” to convert their students to nothing more than slaves in return for emotional support.
The Golden Dawn tradition has the opposite problem. It's flaw is that people too often see the material reality as all there is. They see the roles of the officers, the grades etc as important. It becomes a matter of doing the ritual and the tests rather than any inner development. Where Inner work is required, such as the use of the Z documents, it is glossed over, ignored, or performed so literally that it is largely pointless. Inner Plane contacts, Secret Chiefs, if accepted at all, become so twisted so that they become mortal and only talk to the head of an order to boost his manna.
An ideal system exists by merging both and finding a balance between the two ways. In the Golden Dawn this means training people to see the outer and Inner linked. However as the system is created this requires some adaptation. Although what is called pathworking is known within Golden Dawn groups, it is considered Second Order stuff which is not seen for nearly four or five years. It requires some of the training which the Dion Fortune system would be familiar with. While many would see this as oath-breaking, it is no more dramatic than allowing outer order students to do the middle pillar. The bonus is that they will see what is happening in a ritual, and be allowed to take part in the magic on the yetziratic level, which will make the whole thing more interesting for them.
For the Inner Light tradition, there needs to be better written and clearly defined patterns of ritual. People need to open their eyes and “see” inner realities mapped onto physical space. This will reduce the problems of disconnection from reality, which that tradition has suffered from.
Both traditions need to learn from each other.


  1. Hi Nick,

    I can’t believe this slipped through my net of alerts and aggregators!

    Thanks – this is a very good little article. Being happily isolated in WA, I had only surmised what you give voice to here. My teacher had some Inner Light experience and training as well as GD, and I think you are right – the two can inform each other well. In my correspondence with Inner Light tradition folk over the past ten years I have been amazed at just how little actual ritual is done. A basic set up, and then it’s all pathworking of something, until a basic closing.

    I am curious about your comment re oath breaking. The Order we helped create here was not inflexible enough to exclude Inner Light style pathworkings. As the principles for creating and working these and for training students in their effective use are in any number of books (if you read between the lines), I do not see this as oath breaking.

    The subjective-objective question is a big issue, and one we try to resolve by first teaching introspection and self –examination before any visionary work. Obviously each vision can tell us about ourselves if we ask the right question (“why did Raphael choose ME to give the big, red wand to?”), but its bearing on the macrocosm is likely to be nil at first.

    If there is one single failure in the Inner Light tradition material it is this tendency to encourage any inner vision to be seen as legitimate, on the grounds that, even if hokum, by believing in it and being led up the garden path, the student will eventually learn something. Personally this approach sets my teeth on edge :) Thanks again.

  2. Disclaimer: I learned about all the various currents within Ceremonialism from published books.

    However, I reached the same conclusion about the imbalance of emphasis on Inner vs. Outer when I did a "literature review" of those published works in 1992. I ended up distinguishing between "orthodox" orders (such as GD, AS, BOTA, and FLO) and the "WMT" approach (as expressed by various authors who descend from Fortune). My position was--and still is--that both sides had over-emphasized one side of what was at least implicit in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic--at the expense of a great deal of power. So when I started designing my own order, I specifically required a balance between formal and aformal work. The goal, as you so rightly say, is to be able to integrate both of them into each working.

  3. Hi Ian
    I just finished reading a book by one of the WMT types about Cabbalah. While he might have been spot on about a lot of things, his ritual was rubbish and lacked logic. I think generally in rejecting a lot of the GD system and "rushing onto the inner" they have removed a lot of important stuff. Likewise a lot of GD groups lose a lot of power from the inner.... I think there needs to be a balance... I have almost got it in MOAA.... there needs to be a little more tinkering in the outer order i think.