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The Golden Dawn, Intoxicants/Entheogens, and the Consequences of Fueds

Ave,



So....this is something that's always bothered me a bit, which I'm going to go ahead and address now. There is a consensus in the Golden Dawn that all use of intoxicants or entheogens is completely negative and terrible, and will result in horrid and deleterious consequences like possession, a weakening of the will, service to the Old Ones and the rising of Great Cthulhu......you get the picture.

I think there are a couple of reasons this is so, and I think that unfortunately they are not primarily based on effectiveness in Magic.  Because Golden Dawn Magicians use entheogens pretty often (mostly unaware that they are doing so, much in the way Roman Catholics are unaware of the Ceremonial Magic they witness once a week) and there is a long standing tradition of doing so in the Western Mystery Tradition.

Within my Order we teach that using intoxicants as a substitute for discipline is unacceptable, and with good reason. My superiors within the Order are quite clear on this, and in this case I completely agree. It is best to learn to acquire magical trance states through meditation, will, and discipline as much as possible. I teach this to my students, because it is true, and it is safer for them. Many entheogens can be poisonous if consumed unwisely.

While I was thinking on this subject the other day, one of my students asked me a question about Spagyric Alchemy, and I taught him what I knew. I encouraged him to commune with the spirits of the Plants, to consume carefully prepared Tinctures and Elixirs.... and then thought about what was truly happening. An Elixir is an Entheogen, period. An entheogen is a psycoactive substance used in ritual or spiritual context.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen). If your Elixir isn't psychoactive, you aren't doing it right.

What we are doing is little different from what the Shamans/Priests who consumed (in the proper magical fashion, and not the purely entertainment based way that entheogens are often consumed in America) and communed with "plant spirits" in the form of Peyote, Salvia, Marijuana, or Alcohol did in our past and present.  Frankly it is not different at all; we just have a tendency to use plants that  have less spectacular immediate effect; and that's only the modern way. We Western Magicians have a long tradition of using certain entheogens in magic--see henbane, belladona, mandrake, Syrian rue...the list goes on and on. I tend to think of the use of entheogens as akin to the the use of vehicles. (Time for a lengthy analogy!)

 Yes, you absolutely must be able to travel on your own legs when possible. If you over-rely on your car, you will face consequences that are disastrous to your long-term health and ability to travel under your own power (such as weight gain, loss of athleticism, health risks...etc).

It is the same with trance work and magic. If the only way you can attain a magical trance is with the use of incense, or consumption of a plant-spirit or other tool, you will be less able then if you can attain trance through breath and mind alone.

That being said, there are some places that are very difficult to reach without a vehicle. I could walk and exercise regularly and still have no chance of reaching the Bahamas under my own power. Sometimes you have to buy the plane ticket.

...and while most people travel safe, every now and again a plane goes down. There is risk in traveling, and greater risk in traveling in faster vehicles. An Elixir made with Garlic may be equivalent to a fast bicycle, and one made of Peyote may be a rocket ship. You can get to the Moon with the rocket, but not everyone makes it back. Neither Magic nor Travel are risk-free enterprises.

In my own magic, I am perfectly capable of deep trance states through breath and discipline....but they do not begin to compare to what I can attain with the aid of incense, a properly outfitted temple, candle light and some tools. We have these technologies for a reason. They work. Entheogens are powerful vehicles, and their use as a magical technology is as old as man. I was going to state that I've never used an Entheogen in Magic, but I've been using Spagyric Elixirs for years, and to great effect.

The use of Elixirs and Tinctures in Spagery aren't done to replace the discipline of meditation, but often tune the meditative faculties of the Operator toward the forces that are inherent in the plants Nature. This will result in Visions and often subtle communication. I stand by this as both traditional, good, and necessary. We are careful to use mild plants in Spagery, and that makes for responsible and mostly safe use of entheogens....in my opinion.

A real problem here is that competition between Golden Dawn Orders makes it difficult to have a nuanced stand on controversial things. It is easy to take something like this and twist it out of context.....rest assured that  if I were to say that we did any less than prohibit the use of entheogens in our Order, competitors would shout from the roof-tops that "Griffin's Golden Dawn Encourages Drug Use!!!111!!!1", and we would never hear the end of it, despite that being completely untrue.

I wish we could present an official, nuanced stand on this matter. Instead we MUST teach our students to avoid these things no matter what, and are leaving a big chunk of our heritage on the threshing room floor.

If you want an example of why, take a look at all the foolishness surrounding our addressing the Sexual Mysteries in the recent past. I've never seen so much breathless, foolish commentary.  This is a real problem, and an example of why public discord between Orders can result in a stifling and constraining of magical knowledge. We seem to be moving in the right direction, which is good, but there's a long way to go.

There is also the serious matter of health issues--imagine if I were working with one of the more dangerous western Plant Spirits like henbane, or belladonna, and injured myself through unwise consumption? Where would that leave the Golden Dawn, if we taught people to use this and it were part of the curriculum? Nowhere good, I can tell you that. We have to think of the safety of our Fraters and Sorors, of course. In this modern day and age, there are real liabilities and risks that older hidden Orders didn't need to worry about. The modern Order is often a corporation, it can be sued. In the past, there was nothing to Sue-the Order existed as an egregore and association, not as a public entity within the grasp of Law. An order that gets sued out of existence teaches no-one anything...except by example.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going this....I just want to encourage some thought and conversation about this matter. Every single Golden Dawn order that I know of absolutely prohibits the use of Intoxicants in Magic (my own included), and they also all practice some form of Spagery within their ranks. It's interesting.

In LVX,

AIT

Comments

  1. I've always found the "no psychoactive substances" line interesting. Some orders may even deny entrance based on past use, magical or otherwise.

    But it makes me think, how many of those same officers have drinks with friends? How many smoke tobacco? Or drink caffeine?

    The argument could be made that these are all generally safe and socially acceptable; I'd have to turn around and ask them about marijuana, seeing as how it's been shown to be safer and less addictive than the above, and under most circumstances not hallucinogenic. I wonder how many "that's not acceptable in our order"s I'd get, without anyone being able to give me a particular reason *why* (especially in areas where consumption is perfectly legal).

    You could apply that argument to a lot of other substances, too. I'm not endorsing the use of any particular substances, but it is interesting to tease apart people's logic.

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  2. I enjoy that as well! I've yet to meet a ceremonial magician who didn't enjoy a good glass of wine, and that's as mind altering as marijuana at the very least. The Eucharist ritual even has drinking a glass of wine written into it...

    I say that the idea of social acceptability shouldn't even come into it; Magic isn't socially acceptable iteslf, haha.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Anonymous Frater or Soror just left a comment that was borderline trolling....so I deleted it. Fra/Sor, if you'd like to repost that one with your name or motto, and keep it conversational, I'll happily leave it up.

    You could have expressed yourself there without the attack.

    AIT

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  5. It really is a pity that the first response to discussions like these is often flaming and/or trolling. It's missing a wonderful opportunity to examine ourselves and find the "why"s behind our gut reactions. Self-exploration is at the core of our traditions, after all!

    On a side note, yours is the first blog I've seen on Blogger that doesn't have a "Subscribe to comments by email" link under the comments box. Besides keeping up on replies, I'd have liked to go back in my inbox and see Fra. Anon's comment for myself. Related to your skin/theme, perhaps?

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  6. I agree, it is a pity. I always expect better from our fellows, and am regularly disappointed. The temptation to anonymously troll--a sure sign of cowardice if any exist--is too much for some to handle. The worst part is that they Know what they are writing is garbage, or they wouldn't do it anonymously. Le Sigh.

    I didn't know that element was broken with this theme, ill give fixing it a go. Thank you!

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  7. I think your treatment of the subject is good and addresses some of my own issue with it. In my own practice, I'd have to be very careful what types of effects were produced out of anything I consume. Something that veers too far out from an appreciable trancey/meditative state of consciousness and too far into feeling, well F***ed up endangers me personally (bad addiction problems), but yet I will gladly use tobacco and caffeine in daily life. Those things aren't ruining my ability to function, think, and enjoy life.

    Back when I was lying to myself, I would try to incorporate alcohol and weed into ritual and not only was I less focused and less effective, I ended up basically taking the booze and weed and leaving behind the magick.

    I think careful use of entheogens in magick is acceptable, but I agree that the practitioner should have already acquired the ability to alter the consciousness using breathing, vibrating, and mind alone. Those things, with practice and patience, WILL open up the seat of psychic vision. Having trained himself through actual Work, I'd say a magician is free to experiment. Often, when I have a vision during a conjure or meditation session, it's not as vivid and colorful as if I had taken a strong entheogen, but it doesn't always need to be. It's like... As long as I can divine the subtle from the gross, can I not still get the Wisdom out of the vision without it having to be plastered on the wall and the back of my eye lids? If I simply *pay attention*, it doesn't have to be some full blown hallucinogenic experience for the vision to mean something.

    And that's a good analogy, by the way.

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  8. Care et H. Frater A.I.T.,

    what a wonderful and interesting issue you brought up here.
    First of all, iam fully in line with your attitude that the student of hermetic mysteries should be able to attain states of magical trance and exaltation by the power of his own mind alone- like it is said in hermetic Alchemy that the Great Work is performed by Mercury alone.
    But i think without the aid of psychedelic substances like LSD, Psilocybin and Peytol that i used in my late teens and twens i would be not where i am today. They led me in the direction to search for a spiritual discipline with which iam able to induce these states of consciousness in a safe and controlled way, without the aid of outside substances.
    And the system of the Golden Dawn did not disappoint me in this regard!
    I see it like this: my experiences with Entheogens did, at a very early stage, show me where the journey heads to, they helped to lift the veil to the inner realms- but i knew from the beginning that when i really want to reach states that are truly transformative, i have to work on it with my mind and for myself.
    The visionary experiences i had with skrying may be not so colourful like visions i had with psychedelics, but i think the reason why i never had problems with skrying from the very beginning was that i already have trained myself to see with my inner eye.
    I think when being steadfast in the ability to skry the magician can experiment with plants on a certain range.
    For example, i burned Datura seeds several times when i skryed the plane of Saturn, and i had really interesting experiences with it.
    I also thought about taking a really small dose of self collected magical mushrooms when invoking for one time, but up till now i did not do it because i simply felt its not necessary (although i will keep that idea ;-)).
    Just like you said, and thats also in line with what i learned in my studies of comparative religious sciences, man, religion and the use of entheogens is unseperable. Its for a special reason that God gave us certain plants that are able to alter the consciousness. I think every country on this planet bears certain fruits that are there for the spiritual help of its inhabitants. In Southern and Northern America you have Ayahuasca, Peyotl and Mushrooms, in Europe you have Mushrooms and Datura etc etc.
    These are all magical plants. And they are there to ignite the spiritual consciousness of the people who live there.
    I think taking these substances is the first step to spiritual awakening (and it was for many magicians i know today)- and the second step is to work on the consciousness by Mercury alone.
    Maybe i write an own article on this subject on my own blog. There would be much more to say about it.
    Thanks for inspiration,
    in L.V.X.,
    H. Fra. L.e.N.e.

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  9. Care H Frater A.I.T,

    I remain anonymouse becasue I want to protect my identity. I am very happy that you write in such an enlightened way. I feel thankful that we have fraters like you in the order as well as H.Fra L.e.N.e not to mention others that arent listed here.There is cetainly a lot of work to be done within myself, but saying that blogs like this really ignite my inner passions and give me a sensation of wonderment. but most importantly I liev and work in a real live and beautiful tradition! Way to go. Any chance on writing on the other magical primer sexuality as you made a referance to it in your writing?

    In love and L.V.X

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  10. Hey Anonymous,

    without wanting to interfere here with H. Frater AITs Blog-business, i wrote an article about Sexuality on my own blog: www.goldenedaemmerung.blogspot.com- you find it in the blog archive under May, its called "Ascetism and Sexuality".
    As an addendum to my last comment here:
    I do not, in any way, promote using entheogens or certain drugs for any sincere seeker of the hermetic mysteries. I hope nobody has understood me wrong in this regard. I think one does not necessarily need these drugs in order to grow or awake on the spiritual level. Like AIT said, there are dangerous risks in using these substances. But anyway, iam grateful for the experiences i made in my youth and past, although iam well aware that its of no use to take one substance over and over, and that i was blessed with a good state of psychic balance. I have seen others becoming psychotic or schizophrenic as well, although these persons always had predispositions (but one does never know before!). Just to set the record straight. My sincere attitude is that there is NOTHING that can substitute true and disciplined magical and alchemical work. No drug will be able to take you where your magical discpipline is taking you to.
    This being said, i hope there is nonetheless space for a good discussion.
    In L.V.X.,
    H. Fra. L.e.N.e.

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  11. Care Fra SeA,

    Good points all around; I agree that it's important for the Magician to be honest with himself, and careful about his approach. Different things work for different folk....and the wrong thing can definitely bite.

    One thing you mentioned that I think definitely should be highlighted is that it's difficult to use a substance you use for recreational as a spiritual substance. Especially if there are habits already established, a relationship that's pre-defined.

    Thanks for the great comment, Frater!

    AIT

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  12. Care et H.Fra.L.E.N.E.,

    Excellent comment! I agree that entheogens have played an especially important role in the spirituality of our modern Western world in that, because of the dominant materialist world-view, for many people their first truly spiritual experiences are had using their power. They have served an important role, and it is definitely important to have an understanding of their use, as long as there isn't an absolute reliance on it.

    I think that there are places and states that are specific to certain entheogens that may be attained only by their use; like the spirit-realms one encounters using DMT or Peyote. They seem to serve as doors to these places.

    That being said, for all of the realms that we need travel in our work within the Golden Dawn, our training is all the door we need; our doors are image and vibration. We definitely agree there, Frater!

    I think your experiences with entheogens where a blessing, in that they brought you into spiritual awareness and into the practice that you have today. Their safe use, perhaps, lies in discernemnt and moderation.

    Thank you for sharing your own experiences with entheogens; it has enriched the discussion!

    In LVX,

    H.Fra.AIT

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  13. Dear H.Fr. A.I.T.,

    Excellent post Brother! I wholeheartedly agree with you. Being an advocate (and activist) for reforms regarding Natural Medications, Entheogens, and Medical Cannabis I fully understand the difficulty of the topic. Excellent perspectives on these things all around. Your blog is always a pleasure to read!

    Warm Regards,
    Olen

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  14. Care et H. Fra. A.I.T.,

    Very interesting perspective. I might add though that alchemically prepared elixirs and tinctures are supposed to affect and transform the energetic body (spehere of sensation) of the alchemist, and even subler bodies than that. That may of course have an alterning effect upon consciousness as well. Thus their primary function is to be "medicinal" of both mind and body. Again, this often entails changes of consciousness as well but perhaps not in a way that are usually attributed to hallucinogens, i.e. limited to the synapses and transmittor substances of the brain but creating an overall effect upon the subtle bodies (which of course also creates long term changes in the structure of the brain and nervous system, as well as endoctrine system). Thus alchemy is truly a complement to energetic manipulation as seen in Ceremonial Magic.

    Fraternally in L.V.X.,
    S:.R:.

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  15. Care et V.H.Fra.S.R.,

    You bring up a very interesting subject; the person is complete, and all levels are linked to one another....so entheogens must be affecting the energetic bodies of the Operant when in use. Perhaps not in the exact same way as our carefully prepared elixirs, but certainly affecting them. I wonder what exactly that effect might be? Much of the efficacy we see in our elixirs comes through the conscious evolution of the plant through the Alchemist's Art; what if we were to apply that same evolutionary process to an entheogen? Would a plant that is clearly powerful in operating upon the consciousness be even more powerful refined? Would it have a similar power upon the more subtle bodies as it does upon the consciousness?

    I imagine it would. The principles we apply in Spagery work universally on living matter, and to begin with a powerful Plant should make for an even more Powerful Elixir. It's something worth thinking about. Many of the entheogens used as Spiritual assistants in the West already have their place in our hierarchy of correspondences.

    Thank you, Frater!

    In LVX,

    AIT

    ReplyDelete

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