When Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he was initially impressed with the intensity and seriousness of the vows he took never to reveal any of the secrets of the Order. He quickly became disappointed, though, when those “secrets” were revealed to be relatively mundane—or at least well known—things like the Hebrew alphabet and the signs of astrology.
Aleister Crowley Giving the “Sign of Pan”
The title of the book next to him, Perdurabo Magister, means “Master Perdurabo”
Perdurabo, “I shall endure to the end,” is the magickal name Crowley took in 1898
when he was initiated into the Golden Dawn
It’s true that the Hebrew alphabet and basic astrology don’t seem, by nature, very magickal. But I think Crowley may have missed the importance of these revelations: Hebrew and astrology were not just an alphabet and a tool for predicting the future. Rather, they were at the very heart of ceremonial magick.
The Real Nature of the Golden Dawn
When most people think of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn they believe that it is a true, magickal organization with members who really know magick.* But the truth is the Golden Dawn was never magickal in nature or design. The name, “The Golden Dawn” was only the name of the “Outer Order,” a face presented to beginning members and that might be “leaked” to the outside world so it could be mentioned in hushed whispers by the cognoscenti.
The actual Order was composed of three sections. The Inner or 2nd Order was where practical ceremonial magick was actually practiced and taught. The name of this Order was the Rosea Rubea et Aurea Crucis, “Red Rose and Gold Cross,” often referred to as the RR et AC. The even more inner 3rd Order consisted of the inner teachers or “Secret Chiefs” and guides for the tripartite group, and was known as the A.A. (One of the reasons the eventual head of the Golden Dawn, MacGregor Mathers, became furious with Crowley is that after Crowley broke with the G.D. he formed his own ceremonial magick group, intended to supersede the Golden Dawn, called the A.A.!) The few actual members of the A.A. were believed to have “crossed the Abyss” and were no longer in corporeal form, although it appears they may have taken the appearance of normal humans at times.
So if the 3rd Order is for the Guides of the organization, and the 2nd or Inner Order is for actually working ceremonial magick**, what was the purpose of the Outer Order, the Golden Dawn?
More to Memorize? Nooooo!
The main purpose of the Outer Order, the Golden Dawn (often the name “Golden Dawn” was used to refer to the entire Organization) was to train people to become real magicians. At each level or degree members were given more material to memorize and techniques such as meditation to practice. If you look in the book, The Golden Dawn, you’ll find this information in the first section which contains the so-called “Knowledge Lectures.” Quite frankly, it’s a lot of rather strange material for modern Westerners with MTV induced short attention spans to memorize. This was not always so, and the memory of individuals was often trained and honored, but for many today, memorizing all of those strange symbols, letters, and correspondences can be a bear! Why should I do all that memorization just to make magick?
Indeed, there are other forms of magick that don’t require it. Natural magick has its own correspondences, but they often dealt with such things as plants and herbs and stones that everyone used anyway. There wasn’t any Hebrew or planetary sigils here! The system of mental magick described in my Modern Magick doesn’t require it, although the correspondences can be used to enhance it. Chaos magick eschews the correspondences of ceremonial magick almost completely. So why bother? There are several reasons, but for the purpose today, the answer is in one of the Golden Dawn’s specialized techniques.
The Technique of Techniques
Kabalistic Tree of Life according to Athanasius Kircher as published in his Œdipus Ægypticus in 1652
Virtually everything you memorize within the Golden Dawn is associated with the circles or Sephiroth on the Tree or the paths between them. Thus, by memorizing all of the correspondences within the Knowledge Lectures, you are memorizing the minute aspects of every inch on the Tree. If Google Maps had a street level view of the Tree of Life, you’d be memorizing it.
And that was one of the Inner Order secrets:
With the information you had memorized
and the techniques you had learned
from the Knowledge Lectures,
you could astral project into the Tree of Life as the Tree is
both a map and the actual territory of the astral and other spiritual planes.
Since most of your travel would be on the paths, this technique had a specialized name: Pathworking.
There’s Pathworking and There’s Pathworking
Pathworking is an astounding experience! First, there’s the freeing experience of actually projecting out-of-body onto the astral plane. When most people do this they wander or do something silly like merely visiting an old girlfriend or boyfriend. Really? Is that all you think there is to astral projection?
Not to the mystic! The occultist who has memorized the correspondences has a map of the astral plane that leads to higher and higher levels. You can meet with spiritual beings such as deities, archangels and angels, ask them for assistance, get guidance for everything from how to live your life and achieve your goals to methods for spiritual healing of friends and family. The potential is absolutely endless!
I started teaching pathworking in classes many years ago. And then, I noticed a strange thing occurring. Many people were teaching what they called “pathworking” and leading “pathworkings” in workshops and magickal groups. I took classes with the teachers and attended rituals. None of them were teaching or doing pathworking. Not a one! Instead, they were teaching and leading visualized journeys anywhere except on the Tree of Life! Pathworking had become popularized, altered, simplified, and mainstreamed. It was just a pleasant, but minor, diversion.
Going on visualized journeys can be very beneficial to people. I’m not criticizing the technique in the slightest. But it’s not pathworking! Calling it pathworking is like calling apples “oranges.” Both apples and oranges are good, but they’re not the same.
For several years I railed against this in articles I published and in classes I taught. I discovered that taking a stand against the tide of simplification and relabeling is about as useful as trying to hold back the ocean’s tides using a bucket filled with holes. It was a waste of time.
I still teach pathworking, but to separate it from the common “any visualized journey is a pathworking” concept, I now refer to it as Kabalistic Pathworking.
Finally, A Guidebook Arrives
There was little in print about Kabalistic Pathworking. And then, two masters of occultism, Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, released the first book ever with a complete set of sample Kabalistic pathworkings. Because actually moving through the tree changes every aspect of your being, including your mind, it was titled Magical States of Consciousness. It was a groundbreaking book, and I believe that if it had been titled “Pathworking,” I probably would not have had to call what I teach “Kabalistic Pathworking” to make my teachings clear. I eventually even became involved with a music and sound project associated with the book, but that’s a story for another time.
In Magical States of Consciousness, Denning and Phillips provide sample pathworkings that lead you up and back through the Tree of Life. You can read them and visualize as you go. If you work with others, one person can read them while the others follow the trail. Or you can record them and play the recording.
Some people reading this may correctly object, “Hey, that’s just a visualization, not an astral projection.” If you’re thinking that, you’re correct!. But if you go over them repeatedly, they become familiar journeys. When they become familiar, the mind relaxes, allows its boundaries to break down, and eventually and naturally you will project. How will you know when this occurs? When you experience something that is not described in the journey as written, but is appropriately associated (thank you, Knowledge Lectures!) with the path you’re traversing, you are projecting on the Tree of Life. The book can be your guide. When you go beyond the writing, you are doing real Kabalistic Pathworking.
There’s just one problem. The book is out-of-print and I’ve seen used copies selling for as much as $200! It’s been difficult to get a copy at all…until now.
I am very glad to announce the Denning and Phillips’ Magical States of Consciousness is back in print.
If you are interested in (Kabalistic) pathworking—either to learn about it or to actually practice it—this is the classic book you will want to work with. Real (Kabalistic) pathworking is a fascinating, profound, and magickal experience. It can help you achieve the goal of members of the RR et AC: to become more than human.
*This opinion has been downgraded, lately, with some professed Golden Dawners flailing uselessly and hurling pixels at each other over the internet.
**It appears that at least some of the organization’s lodges actually had two Inner Orders. One was for those whom the leaders of the lodge believed would make good magicians. The others was simply a place to keep the dullards who moved through the Outer Order and wanted fancier robes and sashes, but were judged not to have any magickal abilities. The magickal Inner Order members were not supposed to inform either the non-magickal members or anyone in the Outer Order of the true nature of the magickal RR et AC. I don’t think there was a lot of success in that.