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The Golden Dawn as a School of Magic


I've had an interesting last couple of weeks; I've been doing a fair bit of energetic exploration (although not enough full on ceremonial), and have found myself in a bit of an odd place. The vast majority of the Magic I perform at this point in my life is informed by the Golden Dawn, but not actually the traditional rituals. My rituals for raising and balancing the LVX  are rooted in the visual/vibrational method of the Middle Pillar, but aren't actually the Middle Pillar. My ritual for summoning the Archangels and gently invoking the balanced Elements is rooted in the methods I learned performing the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, but again, are not actually the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Hardly a single ritual has been left unscathed in my personal practice. Although I've evolved my personal system in directions  that are improvements for my own development and system of magic, I recognize the rituals I learned from the Golden Dawn as foundational to my practice.

When I first began making small changes, I felt a definite pang, as if I were insulting the tradition by presuming it could be improved....and I was concerned it reeked of ego. Who am I to change these rituals? I was lucky to know them at all, haha. This lasted for some time, but didn't stop me. Because as I changed and grew, the rituals I used in my evolution needed to change as well. So. Despite my misgivings, I did what needed to be done. Suprisingly, this was not always a change that led to increased complication; I found that once I could enflame myself at will, simpler rituals were more efficacious than the drawn-out lengthy ones, as I learned to recognize the delicate balance between trance states and ritual required for true and effective Spiritual magic. (Learning this balance is also key to powerful Conjuring and Divination! Unsurprisingly, it comes quite naturally to Folk-Magicians and Conjurers, who seem to mostly learn through performing Thaumaturgy, and spend little time in meditative states.) I learned that spontaneous invocations and invocations pre-written by the Operant were far more effective than those read from a manual and written by another Magician.

I had to change my perspective. I'd been seeing the Golden Dawn as a sort of Orthodoxy; I'd always thought it important not to alter the foundation rituals, and to teach them as accurately as possible to our new students. I still believe this is true, but not just because. I think it is necessary for them to learn these rituals because it is teaching them how to perform magic. They aren't supposed to be the only Magic our Magicians ever do. They are the foundation. The Arts of Invocation, Prayer, Incantation, Vibration, Visualisation...all of these are covered by the basic rituals, and repeated performance of the rituals takes you to a point where you have Gnosis of how to perform the Art of Magic. You understand what the different structures/movements/states are for, and learn how to craft them yourself. Not just intellectually, which is useless, but intuitively and emotionally as well. Personal innovations shouldn't be undertaken until the student has, in my opinion, evolved their introspective and divinatory abilities enough to perceive and understand the effects their Magic will have on their lives.

This is part of why I find there to be little danger (but much sadness) in the profanation we've experienced. You could memorize the profaned documents, and if you weren't a Magician (and not a person training to become a Magician...there is a line that is crossed after some experience is gained that has nothing to do with Grade or Title) they are absolutely meaningless. How many non-GD Magicians have had success with the Z-2 formulae, for example? ( many actual GD Magicians have, at that?) The crowning stone of the entire  Order, as far as Ceremonial Magic is concerned, and I would bet that the vast majority of GD Magicians haven't touched the thing, and don't quite understand it irregardless. It takes deep study and practice to grasp the flow, the Spirit of it. It's not enough to give it a try once, you have to get in there deep. To do that, you have to have a grasp of the symbolism inherent to the Neophyte ceremony, and that takes study and meditation as well. It's somewhat like if someone left the plans for a nuclear weapon in a Starbucks. There aren't a whole lot of people who would know what to do with it even assuming they new what it actually was when looking at it. There is, of course, the problem of the damage down to a carefully nurtured egregore by persons hijacking it's ritual and symbol set. (Take a look at the Fylfot Cross, for instance, as an unpleasant but perfect example). That just plain sucks.

Anyway, I think it's important to see the Golden Dawn as a system training people in Magic. A GD Magician isn't limited to just GD ritual and magic....perhaps this is obvious to everyone, but I think the focus on doing the rituals perfectly and unwaveringly in the early years of practice might lead one to think otherwise. No one expects an




  1. Oh, man. I couldn't agree more with these sentiments. I want to be a stickler here, though. If you're doing group work in the *GD* system (or any other system), working it as traditionally as possible to incorporate the symbol set is for the best. Especially if you change something that something else is contingent upon later in the system; which, from what I hear/see, happens all the time.

    What you do in your free time, though? That's up to the individual. And we shouldn't always be stuck in the idea that we can only use one method or another.

    Then again. You know. Chaos Magicians and the whole "use what works" bits.

  2. Right on with the group work, very true. Initiations are an entirely different deal....I'm mostly talking about the individual practice, the personal work. I am probably not qualified at all to talk about Lodge work, as I rarely participate in any. Mostly just for initiations. That's another thing worth talking about, haha. There are different cultures in the GD, with chunks of us having a local lodge and doing regular work, and a hefty majority who attends lodge only for important ceremony (due to lack of in-area temples, mostly.) That's a long post, though.....why don't you go ahead and tackle that one, Frater? =)

  3. Hahaha! Nah, that wouldn't be my area of expertise, either. I may pop off an email to you as to why a bit later. After a few more cigarettes and deciding if I'll blog about my stepfather and his family and other culture thoughts, or whether I'll drop that subject entirely for a while.

  4. Looking forward to that email, bro!

  5. Care H. Fr. AIT,

    i think one can use the formula of Z also a bit more simple than the examples that are outlined in the Z-2-documents.
    For example, i received highly interesting results by simply creating the astral hall of Neophyte in my mind, by starting with the temple walls and floor, the Kerubim, Children of Horus, Dais Gods etc etc, and finally by creating Harparkrat. I used the blue sphere of Harparkrat as a kind of protection shield for my sphere and for my house. This worked more well than i have first thought. In fact i noticed that visitors that on a higher level maybe were not meant to come into contact with me- did not find my entrance or bell, although its fairly easy to find.
    I also used this imaginative meditation and astral creation of the Hall to reinforce my oath, by visualiszing Osiris or Auroeris at crucial points, taking my oath again at the Hall etc etc.

    Also, you can do much interesting magic not only with the formula of the Neophyte, but also with parts of the elemental grade ceremonies, like the Rite of the Kerubim (Path of Tav) from Theoricus for example.

    As always, thanks for your blog.
    Fraternally in L.V.X.,
    Summa Scientia Nihil Scire,
    H. Frater L.e.N.e.

  6. As I said sometime ago in another mage's blog: Golden Dawn is much more than LBRP...

  7. Care H Frater!

    It's good to see people discussing the importance of individual practice as an addition to the traditional corpus, and the application of the symbolism in an individual way.
    Especially as many of us have been practising Magic for many years before deciding on coming into the Alma Mater...

    In LVX,

    Frater LIL

  8. Care H.Fra.LeNe,

    What an interesting use of the formula, thank you for sharing! Nice to see that some of us are out there grappling with it, instead of reading it, thinking "Wow, that's interesting..." and then moving straight away to our comfortable GIRP's and GIRH's...

    In LVX,


  9. Care Fra LIL,

    Very true-many of us where skilled Magicians and Sorcerers before joining the Golden Dawn; I think it's important to note that the Golden Dawn gives a magical education, and not a strict "style". I'd love to hear about some of your personal work and how it affects your GD work, when you have a chance.

    In LVX,


  10. Care H. Frater A.I.T.,

    thanks for your reply.
    Regarding the strict style, i think its nonetheless necessary that the student follows in detail the outlined modus operandi, at least up to a certain point where s/he is proficient enough to experiment. For me, the experimenting phase began with Theoricus. I think thats quite normal or natural.
    But all my experimentation, with the Watchtower ceremony, the Bornless ritual, the Neophyte formula, the One Year manual of Regardie etc. etc. i have performed apart from my daily routine, in addition to it.
    Maybe iam too conservative with this, but i truly believe that our practical curriculum is so designed that it leads to the ultimate result when performed daily and disciplined and with all the heart. One does not necessarily have to expand it, or alter it. It will lead to spiritual attainment anyway.
    Moreover, after performing the Middle Pillar for 8 years on a daily basis it never got boring for me! With this simple technique i have reached heights i would have never dreamt of.
    I would also never drop the good old banishing rituals, because they serve a very special purpose and i could not imagine any other technique that is as effective and simple as that.
    Experimenting is good, and at some point maybe a key to progress further, but only when the student has proved himself disciplined enough to work with the classic basic rituals etc. for quite a time, lets say at least two years or after progressing through 0=0 and 1=10.
    You may be a very creative person, but for beginners (no matter how much magic they have done before joining the Order- the best student is him/her who comes totally blank to it anyway...) i find it very important to stick to the curriculum. Apart from its energetical benefits, its a test in itself in terms of discipline and perseverance to stick to it for a certain time.
    I have seen quite a few students fall out of the process altogether by experimenting too much and burning their hands with techniques they were not prepared for, although they believed themselves quite advanced.

    Just my two cents again, dear Frater.
    Keep up the good work.
    Summa Scientia Nihil Scire-
    Fraternally in L.V.X.,
    H. Fra. L.e.N.e.

  11. Care H.Fra.LeNe,

    I do agree that the student should begin by grappling, grasping, and internalizing the curriculum and should be disciplined in it's practice; I just don't think that is All they should do. By the time they've reached Practicus they should be delving into other areas of Magical Practice beyond the curriculum, and should have sufficient gnosis of the rituals to adjust and experiment with personal methods of working with them (incorporating flashing Sounds/Colors whilst vibrating the Hebrew Letters, using Planetary elections with their telesmata....etc.) Developing deep connections with the Gods they work with, becoming skilled in skyring and divination.... This is, I think, necessary and a sign of maturity as a Magician.

    I would be more disappointed in a student who never stretched out and made his way placidly along, than the one who dared some new things, and came away a little burnt but wiser. That is, of course,if it's done in moderation. You learn about fire if you burn your hand, but if you burn to death you don't learn anything. There is a middle way, like in most things.

    I do respect your opinion, Frater; it is always learned and welcome! I can tell you have the well-being of your students first in your mind.

    In LVX,


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

    You have raised an extremely interesting subject here.

    To begin with, as you are aware, the HOGD/AO is quite unique as an order in that we are in our outer order a school of ritual magick. To my knowledge, there is no other Golden Dawn order even until today that gives people more practical operative magick than just the LBRP and the Middle Pillar.

    As you are well aware, I always thought that it was ridiculous to pretend that magick included published and well known material remains secret of the Second Order. In my opinion, if the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as an Outer Order is to have any substantial value at all in the 21st Century, it is as a school of ritual magick.

    With this said, still see the subject you raise as a double edged sword. As a linguist, it is natural that I analyze magick like a very special and unique language. It has its own grammar, syntax, etc.

    On the one hand, if you want to learn a language, understanding its grammar is an absolute necessity. Moreover, there is a certain amount of rote memorization that is completely indispensable. The same holds true for Ritual Magick. This is why all of our tutors are instructed to ensure that their students follow our ritual formulae to the letter. The repetition of the same ritual structures over and over with precise perfection gives one over time a solid foundation in a magical grammar essential for advanced magical work.


    My own Hermetic Master has said to me on many occasions: "In the Alpha et Omega, we do not want sheep in our Third Order - we want GOATS." In other words, out ultimate goal is not to raise sheepish followers of magical systems, but rather CREATORS of magical systems.

    (continued below)

  13. (continuation)
    But then again, in order to get to this point, you have to learn the basics first through precise, rote repetition. In other words" "If you want to become a poet, first you need to learn the grammar o your own language." This is why our tutors require such strict adherence to the ritual structures as set forth our magical curriculum for advancement through the grades of our outer order.

    There is one place where I frequently intervene in the practice of our beginners rather early on, however. In this aspect of my teaching I am frequently reminded of the Zen master observing his disciples practicing Tai Chi Chuan. As he walks through the dojo observing his students, it is not at all uncommon for him to knock one of them on their ass, by sweeping their legs out from under them with his staff, while barking: "You have no roots! Concentrate on your roots, or the entire tree will fall easily to the Earth."

    This is the same admonishment that I so frequently give to our magical acolytes as well, at least metaphorically speaking. In fact, at least once or twice you have had your feet swept from beneath you with this same lesson from me as well.

    The point is that there is a grave danger that Neophytes learn only to practice the forms of the ritual. These forms have no root if they have no energy. How many times have you heard me admonish you that you have to learn to make the LVX move if your magic is to have any real power?

    Ritual forms are worthless without LVX. The Hermetic tradition is, first and foremost, a school of energetic evolution - And you had better evolve energetically if your magick is to have any value. Correct magical practice means not only correct form, it also means correct energetic flow through your sphere of sensation. And if you are practicing correctly, then this flow should grow stronger and stronger as you grow in your magical practice. If not, you are wasting your time.

    What you say in this blog makes me proud to have you as my magical disciple. It is clear that you are mastering not only the forms of our rituals, but you are also mastering their SPIRIT. And this is what separates the goats from the sheep among magicians. Well done.

    Magister Lux ex Septentrionis
    (David Griffin)

  14. Care et Magister L.E.S.,

    Thank you for both the in-depth comment and the honor of public praise; it's an eye-opener to step back and realize that few of the other Golden Dawn orders are teaching Ritual Magic at the level we are. I thing it was Morgan who referred to us as the "Oxford of the Golden Dawn Orders" (that is a loose quote, from memory). That's a compliment, far as I'm concerned.

    I'm proud to be counted among the Goats! Thank you for having an environment in which our sort can thrive. Definitely one of the reasons I respect our Order's leadership. That we can allow challenging ideas and vocal debate within our Order is a sign of maturity and a desire for true magical scholarship, something the Golden Dawn sorely, publicly needs.

    In LVX,


  15. Care H.Frater A.I.T.,

    Such a stimulating conversation has compelled me to step from beyond the drape of my cloak, metaphorically speaking, and comment. I have been quite the lurker here on your blog for some time, but have been reticent to post due to a certain decorum of secrecy I maintain for our venerable Order and needed some time to figure out how to present a message without being unnessarily revealing, and yet being able to contribute as Soror in our Order, which I am sure our brethren can appreciate. My apologies in advance as this may be lengthy.

    I have read these posts carefully, and having been in our Order for going on 6 years and in a capacity of service in teaching, formal initiations and the like, can vouch for what our Magister and Imperator has said here. He does have a way of testing the energetic mettle of " goats" in the Order and it is when you least expect it. Our initiations are powerfully effective on deep levels and mothing is milquetoast. It can be harsh, and there is no hand-holding when we get burned, but if one can tolerate the heat, it will be well worth it and that heat can be very intense !. Our Order is definitely not for the faint at heart and many do indeed fall by the wayside very early on in the Outer Order. I maintain that this is not only because of the normal course of those that just want to try magic, or think for some misguided reason what we teach is “ garden variety”, which it is most assuredly not, but also due to the energetic currents that permeates it as well as with the actual operational magic introduced in the Outer Order. Most people cannot deal with thier shadow side, nor cast aside certain assumptions. There is also possibly a tendency to idolize , or at least, expect too much of leadership early on in the Order,which is probably a normal occurance for the most ambitous of us, which should evolve and be tempered into a mature respect rather than wide-eyed projection of expectations.I can admit that I was initially guilty of this and have known others to go through this process as well.

    ( continued next post) H. Soror M.D.L.L.

  16. Conintued- H. Soror M.D.L.L.

    The longer I am in this Order, the more I am in touch with the foundational currents, my own powerful Spirit, and oddly enough the more humbled I actually become as a result. Learning how to control one's own ego, and inner flames is not easy and I really did not even grasp the real concept of this until very, very recently and with much discipline and renches to my very core. Realizations that have brought me to tears as I have had to shed former notions. I look at this now as merely the beginning. You will find that as soon as your work appears to be validated, something new comes up to challenge. As some things get easier, others get more difficult.It is no surprise, Frater, that you are at a crossroads of exploration towards the end of the Outer Order processes. My brother, it is something I completely understand.

    Like yourself, I had my own style coming into the order and had studied the occult and practiced magic long before joining the HOGD/A&O, and this continues to evolve alongside my curriculum, but the reason I joined in the first place was to learn in a structered manner under the guidance of masters of GD Ceremonial magic and Alchemy, and to serve in a community as well.

    Just as H. Frater L.e.N.e., I had started to spread me wings in the grade of Theoricus by stoking the flames,experimenting with moving LVX, but got burned, albiet thankfully, since it gave me what I needed to be more cautious while opening a door slightly. I had some equally rewarding challenges, as well as more Gnosis experiences than I can even write about. Some being extremely personal and some by which using words are a frail interpretions.This was in the grade of Portal and I came out,I sincerely hope and think, the wiser. Once that door to knowledge is opened, I am of the belief it cannot be closed, but a flight to the heavens and back should not become as the flight of Icarus either ! Let us all proceed with wisdom gleaned and lessons learned.

    In LVX,

    H. Soror M.D.L.L.

  17. Care H.Soror M.D.L.L.,

    What a wonderful surprise! Great to hear from you, dear and honored Sister...I know how carefully you nurture your privacy and that of the Order; hearing your voice in public is definitely a treat! It is especially pleasant to see public comment from a well-trained Soror within the Order, as most of our public voices are decidedly male. Nice to have your perspective, and thank you kindly.

    I came to the Golden Dawn for structure as well, for a defined path and a rigorous education. I've found both within our Order, and am of course grateful for that. Your Portal experience sounds like a defining moment and a crowning one, as well....thank you again for sharing it.

    In LVX,



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