A little while ago, I wrote a post about some of the problems that I see in the present-day Golden Dawn tradition. As I said at the time, I still hold the tradition dear to my heart even though I have issues with the temporal institutions that currently embody it. To read my previous post, however, one might think I had nothing but criticism to offer.
This post is the other side of that coin.
For me, there is nothing else like the Golden Dawn. Having spent about a decade doing magic in a temple setting, working through the grades and experiencing their energies and their impact in my life, it’s still difficult to imagine not working magic that way–even though I haven’t been in a working temple environment for a few years now. While the A.’.A.’. is similar in structure, I’ve never been a fan of Crowley–though I have more empathy for him these days than I once did. And there are various Masonic and para-masonic organizations which also share a lodge setting in common, but my journey is first and foremost a magical one.
But there is nothing that can take the place of working magic with a group of people who speak the same magical language. Especially on an initiatory journey. And even more so when those people become your chosen family, your brothers and sisters (and non-binary siblings!).
I love the Golden Dawn system because there is immense beauty in its complexity. I only saw unnecessary overcomplication before I was first drawn to it, but as I learned to speak the language I began to uncover the many nested layers of symbolism in the ceremonies, like peeling away layers of an onion. And as a system, while far from perfect, it is remarkably coherent and cohesive in its multifariousness. To mesh layers of symbolic meaning together in harmonious and aesthetically pleasing ways is an art, and as a creator of such art I appreciate the skill and intelligence it takes to pull off such a work of creation.
It also works. Having started down the path of self-initiation, and then an initiate of two orders, I’ve experienced the initiatory energies of the grades–in some cases multiple times. And I can testify that the system does what it says on the tin. It will absolutely throw your life out of balance in specifically directed ways, in order for you to overcome the challenges associated with those energies and grow as a magician and a human being by surmounting them. Then the energies are re-balanced in the Portal Ceremony, having been equilibrated according to the formula of solve et coagula, whereupon the process starts all over again at a different valence with Adeptus Minor. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the endless climb up the mountain of initiation, the journey that continues at least as long as this human life shall last.
And man, those energies will fuck your shit up. But generally my experience is that it’s fucked my shit up in the best possible ways, at least when viewed over the long run.
Pedagogically I feel like the system is a bit of a dumpster fire by today’s educational standards, but the overall principle is still solid: take people who want to do magic but don’t know how; give them a language and a set of tools to work with and some basic instruction; and then continue to provide guidance, peer support, and continuing education while those fledgling magicians take wing and learn to soar on their own.
On a personal note, I’m the kind of person who finds beauty in complexity. I prefer cathedrals over natural environments. I spent my teenage years in the Episcopal Church, so I learned to appreciate ritual and ceremony. I conceptualize my belief system as a sort of experientially-based holographic model of reality, modelled at least in part after Thomas Kuhn’s idea of a scientific paradigm, for god’s sake. If you’re the kind of person who prefers modern industrial aesthetics and IKEA furniture to the Victorian, or who is drawn to paths which emphasize the beauty and tranquility of simplicity, you may not find what you’re looking for here. But if you’re like me, there’s a lot to appreciate.
Perhaps it’s just that as a person with ADHD, I need to be overwhelmed a bit by my sensory experience in order to get my rational-critical mind to shut up and let me do magic. Like background music, it serves as a carrier wave for my focus and enables me to get in the right headspace. And as much as I wish it weren’t the case, working in a temple environment with others helps me to be motivated, to be focused, and to be accountable–all things I frequently struggle with.
For me, at least, the Golden Dawn system is my home. And I’m tired of being an unhomed magician.
To that end, I’m starting a Golden Dawn Minneapolis Working Group. If you’re local to the area and want to study and/or work in the Golden Dawn system together, or if you’d like to follow the antics from afar, I look forward to seeing you there.
LVX, my siblings. Let’s make some magic together.