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Did the Golden Dawn Presage NLP?

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on August 15, 2011 | Comments (2)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP, consists of a large set of techniques for achieving excellence. The result of such excellence is improvement in your life and your ability to interact with others in such remarkable ways that it seems magickal. Indeed, the first book on NLP was titled The Structure of Magic. The cover implied that the book was occult oriented, so I looked at it when it first came out decades ago. At the time I wasn’t ready for it and I bypassed it. I now recognize it as my loss, but I’m making up for lost time. I even include one very magick-oriented aspect of NLP in the new edition of my Modern Magick and you’ll discover even more in books such as the forthcoming Brain Magic by Phillip Farber and the revolutionary books on postmodern magick by Patrick Dunn.

Although you can learn a lot about magick through books, in my opinion the best way to learn magick is within classes or with a teacher. With such in-person training you can learn tips, ideas, correct pronunciation and less physical concepts far more accurately and quickly than via trial and error of totally independent study. The same is true with NLP. In fact, NLP trainers go further, saying that they “install” concepts and skills during a training that you can call on when you need to, even though you may not be consciously aware than you have been trained in that particular skill.

I’m not saying that you can’t learn magick or NLP exclusively through personal study via books articles, the internet, etc., only that you may be able to learn far more quickly and effectively with in-person training. Of course, there are numerous variables, such as the skills of a teacher and whether or not you like the teacher and get along with him or her, but I would contend it is generally true that training with a teacher or in a class is more efficient and more effective.

Almost Nothing New

Many practitioners of NLP–NLPers—contend that NLP is completely new. However the originators and developers of NLP acknowledge that they have merely codified what others have done before. This means that NLP is really nothing new…or almost nothing new. What is new is the links between all of these various techniques and the explanations of the techniques.

For example, there is a NLP technique to get agreement with another person (strongly used in sales) called the “Yes Set.” The concept of the Yes Set is simple: if a person is on the edge of making a decision, or has no strong reason not to make a decision, getting that person to repeatedly say “Yes” will get them into a mind set of saying “Yes” so when you ask the final question, the person will agree.

For example, in a sales situation, a sales person might ask a series of questions with obvious “yes” answers leading to “closing the sale.” Much of the information has already been acquired and is merely being repeated:

Your name is still Joan Smith, right? Yes.
And you still live at 12345 1st St., right? Yes.
And you want to buy a music system which is why you came in this store, right? Yes.
And you know this system is the best available in your price range, right? Yes.
So you want to buy this and I should write this up so you can take it home, right? YES!

There are other places where this technique can be of value (such as a business negotiation), but I hope you get the idea. Well, I learned this technique years earlier when I was trained as a telemarketer.

This is just one example of NLP not being new. Only the interpretation, interconnection with other techniques, and practical applications of the techniques are unique and new, giving NLP its value.


One of the most important and powerful techniques of NLP is called Modeling. According to Wikipedia,

Modeling in NLP is the process of adopting the behaviors, language, strategies and beliefs of another in order to “build a model of what they do…[to] get the same behavioral outcome as the person we have modeled.” The model is then reduced to a pattern that can be taught to others.

A much earlier book that presents this idea is the classic Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The book tells how Hill worked with several very wealthy people to learn their beliefs, behaviors and strategies which he later codifies so that others can practice this and, theoretically, become rich. Hill’s book is certainly one of the most important predecessors to The Secret and the modern popularity of the so-called Law of Attraction.

Hill’s book originally appeared in 1937. He had published some multi-volume courses that were more explicit as early as 1928, but was there a technique that used modeling even before this, a technique used for magickal and spiritual advancement?

Assumption of Godforms

In the late 1880s, the modern Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded. Since you’re reading this you’re probably familiar with at least the idea of how some of the initiation rituals of that Order were performed. People wear robes and hold wands while the candidate for initiation is led around in a circle while the people in the costumes recite speeches supposed to enlighten the candidate. If you’ve ever attended one of these rituals, it may have seemed like cheesy, bad theater. Sadly, sometimes that’s all it is.

The reason for this silly approach is that most people familiar with the Golden Dawn’s rituals only look at the early parts of Regardie’s book, The Golden Dawn. It’s only later in that large book when you learn there is much more to it. Specifically, each person wearing a costume should be practicing what is called The Assumption of Godforms.

Mark Stavish wrote a great article on this concept over a decade ago. I agree with him when he states that this is “among the most impressive, as well as challenging techniques in esotericism.” He describes the concept behind it this way:

The fundamental idea behind Assumption of the Godform is that within each of us there are power[s] that lie in potential for awakening, and that by identifying ourselves with those idealized expressions of those power[s] from ancient times, in the form of ‘gods,’ we can awaken through resonance, similar powers and wisdom within our own psyche.

Anubis Standing

So when you see a person in a Golden Dawn ritual holding a wand (such as the long wand in Anubis’ left hand in the image above) or Ankh (the looped cross in Anubis’ right hand), these have the purpose of helping the officer assume the godform they are representing. Or to use the NLPish expression, they are modeling the deity they represent.

Stavish gives three levels of the practical technique of modeling a deity/assuming the god form:

  1. The first level of the practice is the easiest, and consists of little more than sitting in a chair and imagining that you are your chosen deity.
  2. On the second level, it is important to study the deity you’ve chosen, in fact, you might want to study the entire pantheon to some degree…When this is done, and you’ve picked the god you wish to assume, and have studied its appearance, gestures, and mannerism, you begin to build a small likeness of it in your heart.
  3. [On the third level] you grow the god within, and allow it to expand beyond your body, growing to immense height. You may want to also sense it merging, or ‘clicking’ with it[s] corresponding image in the cosmos. That is, your god grows to meet or become one with its exact corresponding image in the cosmos.

This exactly describes the technique of modeling. However, in the Golden Dawn ritual there is more. Each deity has an “energy,” for lack of a better term, and the officer modeling the deity—assuming the deity’s godform—should not only maintain that energy but should also project it to the candidate, imbuing him or her with true initiatic energy.

Practical Use Today

I don’t know if the originators of NLP got the idea of modeling from Hill or if Hill got it from the Golden Dawn or if there is any connection at all. The technique is actually far older than the Golden Dawn, but the Golden Dawn, as described under the “Modeling” heading above, reduced the technique to a pattern that can be taught and used by others.

You can certainly use this technique. If there is a deity with a quality you wish to have—strength, wisdom, healing skills, etc.—your abilities in these areas can be greatly enhanced by modeling the deity/assuming its form. How do you know it’s form? In the books you study to give you ideas of the “powers” of a deity you should see images and stories that will give you the clues you need to model the gods and change your life.


that: Used to identify a specific person or thing observed by the speaker

Reader Comments

Written By Paul Nagy
on August 17th, 2011 @ 10:18 am

Recently Marcus Katz’s book Tarosophy became available. Among its unique features includes a rather fulsome adaptation of NLP techniques for learning and engaging in tarot reading. I know when NLP was the newbie therapeutic mode (1970s) many saw how close their exercises were to classic ceremonial magic. As I recall I never got a straight answer of cultural influence, but as most magicians and therapists recognize, we may not know why it or how it really works, but we know that it does, and that is what counts.

Written By Stefan
on March 21st, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

Long time ago the shamans use this skill titled shapeshifting and in my opinion it is a natural talent based on mimic or mirror neurons / for more info please read Brain magick by Phil Farber./ Yes I agree with Don. Most techniques are not new,just improved versions.

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