Francis Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn is one of the most important books in the history of modern occultism. Recently there have been a spate of attacks on Regardie’s book as being incomplete or not “the real stuff” leading to new books and claims by individuals to have received new information from the Secret Chiefs. Frankly, all of this reminds me of Macbeth’s speech (act V; scene V):
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
In my opinion, these claims and counterclaims all miss the point. Real magick is not about some new secret ritual, an alternate correspondence on the Tree of Life or a variation on a well-known ritual that changes a word or two. Real magick is about what you do with what you have. And with Regardie’s book, you have a lifetime of training and learning and practice.
The Truth About The Golden Dawn
Years ago I received a phone call. “Don, Regardie’s at ____________’s house and is willing to meet you.” I had studied Regardie’s works for ages. My own father had died when I was 6, so Regardie’s writings were a sort of de facto spiritual parent. I had even written to him several times, always receiving brief but gracious responses. But now, I got to meet…the man! [Yeah, there was more than a bit of hero worship. What can I say? I was a kid.]
It would be inaccurate to say we became close friends. We wrote to each other and met several times. He invited me to his home in Sedona, Arizona. I regret never taking him up on his offer. He loved to talk and share.
So when I learned that he was planning on re-writing The Golden Dawn, I wrote to him asking that he do it in a logical order:
- Preparatory material for a degree
- Initiation ritual into the degree
- Knowledge lecture for that degree
- Analysis of the initiation and knowledge of that degree
This would repeat for each degree of the magickal Order. I also suggested that he include an autobiography. His only response to this was, “An autobiography? NEVER!”
When his new book came out as a massive hardbound volume, it had new art and bigger type fonts, but really minimal differences with his original version. This is not meant as an attack on the newer book. I refer to both of them. But I regularly use the original as being more practical and precise. I wrote to him complimenting him on the new version. He wrote back saying he’d found a great use for it as a doorstop. It became known among his friends as the “doorstop edition.”
I had hoped that a logically organized version of The Golden Dawn would have resulted. At the time, I was working on turning into a book the notes I used for the classes in magick I was teaching. I was considering abandoning my work and changing everything over to a logically-designed Golden Dawn text. When the doorstop edition followed the design of the original, I finished my book. It became Modern Magick (now in its own doorstop edition!).
The structure of The Golden Dawn only makes sense if you understand the “book’s” history. Written just at the beginning of WWII, it began not as a single volume, but as four separate books, each appearing a year or more apart.
- The first book included the basic information for each of the degrees of the Outer Order, the training arm of the Golden Dawn.
- The second book included the initiatory and ceremonial rituals of the order.
- The third book finally reveals the magickal techniques, including how to make and consecrate your tools as well as rituals of evocation, shapeshifting, invisibility, and the consecration of talismans.
- The fourth book goes into clairvoyance, astral travel, divination techniques and Enochian magick.
Without understanding this structure and the need to jump back and fourth through the book (for example, to understand the magickal techniques that underlie the initiation rituals, you have to know the material from the first book, be able to break down the sections of rituals in the second book, and then scour the third book for details), The Golden Dawn in any version can be confusing. I knew the owner of an occult shop who self-published more than a dozen books on magick. He told me that the Golden Dawn only had two initiation rituals. Even though he taught magick, he made this untrue statement because he didn’t understand the Golden Dawn system.
I’ve known some people who have tried to figure out the Golden Dawn and its techniques and given up in disgust, saying it was too complicated (complex, yes, but once you understand the complexities it’s not complicated at all). Alternatively I’ve known people who say that it’s too simple, but who have never ventured into the third or fourth volumes. I’ve also known people who have literally reversed important aspects of the rituals, knew they were doing this, but claimed they were doing Golden Dawn work. And, as mentioned above, others claim what’s there isn’t enough and are “receiving” new, more advanced information.
I imagine some of these people will attack me for what I’ve posted here, and that’s okay. As Shakespeare wrote, they are just strutting and fretting their “hour upon the stage” and then are heard no more.
Why the Confusion?
If The Golden Dawn had been written in a logical format, none of the confusion, resulting in new “leaders” who have “the real truth,” would have been possible. It was not written that way for a simple reason: the information published in The Golden Dawn was never intended to be a book. The information is, at best, a set of brief notes that would be given to members of the magickal Order. Each member had a teacher who would fully explain and elaborate on the meaning of everything that was written down. To do this adequately in a book would require a volume many times the size of the current versions.
My Modern Magick will help prepare a person to understand what is in The Golden Dawn. It’s not a replacement for that or any other book. Books such as The Essential Golden Dawn and Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero greatly elaborate and explain the material Regardie published.
“…I Channeled Mother Mary”
When I was living in Encinitas, just north of San Diego, I went to a lecture on past lives. The teacher came late to class, saying about her tent-like dress, “The last time I wore it I channeled Mother Mary,” meaning, of course, the mother of Jesus.
Oh, I had a bad feeling about the lecture to come.
Indeed, the teacher talked a lot about past lives, and then went from person to person in the class, describing their supposed past lives. Nobody except the teacher experienced anything. In my opinion, the true value of past lives comes from re-experiencing them. And that’s the inner secret of The Golden Dawn.
Regardie believed there was no reason to go beyond the beginning of the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn, the 5=6 degree. There was a good reason for this. Not only do you have a lifetime’s worth of powerful magickal techniques which, when understood, can be endlessly modified, but you were supposed to make your own contact with the Secret Chiefs. That’s what the entire work of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn leads to. As I described in an earlier post, a true spiritual leader should help you find your own way and lead only until that time. Once you have made your own inner planes contacts, the physical plane leader is unneeded. He or she should congratulate you and treat you as an equal rather than a follower, a friend rather than a foil.
A Finger Pointing at the Moon
Books such as my own or Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, or magickal Orders such as the Golden Dawn, are like a finger pointing at the Moon. They can point or lead you to the greater spirituality and magick that anyone who desires can obtain. To focus on the Order, or any person who is part of the Order, misses the…well, I’ll let Bruce Lee explain it HERE.