In 1973, the Aquarian Press published R. G. Torrens’ The Secret Rituals of the Golden Dawn. This came four years after Spearman had published his The Inner Teachings of the Golden Dawn. A close reading of them showed variations, but not major differences, between the content of those two books and Israel Regardie‘s The Golden Dawn. I remember reading Regardie’s review of the books by Torrens, and he was not enthused, claiming the information appeared to be just re-writes of his own book.

Later, Regardie came out with another version of the Golden Dawn‘s rituals and teachings that were closer to the Torrens’ books than his previous writings. It seems that the minor differences found in the works by Torrens were actually derived from an earlier version of the Golden Dawn’s beliefs and practices.

So picture yourself part of a Golden Dawn group back in the mid-1970s. Perhaps you had been successfully working the Golden Dawn system, following Regardie’s book, for more than a decade. Should you abandon the practices that you know work for a different version of unknown value? After all, Torrens presented techniques that were closer to the original intent of the Golden Dawn founders.

At that time I knew of several Golden-Dawn focused groups. I was in contact with many members. Not one group I knew of switched to follow Torrens; not one went back to a more “original” version.

And if you think about this, it makes complete sense. Members of the Golden Dawn had abandoned Torrens’ versions half a century earlier. Modern groups were successful using the changes instituted then. Why return at all?

The original Golden Dawn Order accepted the concept of change. Or more accurately, the trained and experienced leaders of various Golden Dawn groups accepted and adopted valuable changes that improved on the techniques and work that had gone before.


Now jump to the present. I have seen various versions of “improved” versions of the Golden Dawn rituals and teachings. Ignoring the changes that are made for political reasons to try and give extra power to individuals, most (but not all) of the changes I’ve seen have one thing in common: they were created by people based on personal philosophical beliefs rather than an inner understanding of the teachings.

One of my favorite examples of this is that some groups have changed the use of the word “Lord” in Golden Dawn rituals to “Lord and Lady” or “Deity.” On a superficial level I fully understand this. At the time the GD was founded, even though the Order was amazingly non-sexist in practice, the members still used a language that, following the practices of the time, was sexist. I am in favor of eliminating sexism.

However, this change deconstructs the rituals, changing life-altering mystical symbolism into an English-only ritualized drama and, for that section, nothing more.

I can sympathize with the desire to do this. It’s much easier to focus on the modern language and ignore the meaning behind the language. Specifically, the use of the term “Lord” comes from the Hebrew Adonai. This name of God is actually a formula with certain meanings. “Lord and Lady” would probably be Adonai v’Adati. “Deity” would probably be the Tetragrammaton, formed of the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vahv-Heh which is considered unpronounceable.

These three different names for the Godhead each imply different things. Making as simple and innocuous a change as this without understanding the changes to the meanings of the passages that use the terms is questionable.

To my mind, in this instance some of the changes are clearly not good for magickal practice.


So am I for or against change in magick? Recently, thanks to improved research and scholarship, there have been increasing discoveries and revelations of older magickal techniques. Should we not incorporate these earlier techniques into our practices?

To my mind that’s like suggesting we should go back to the surgical techniques where they didn’t sterilize hands and tools.

Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s better.

So should we accept and use modern changes to magickal philosophy and techniques? In those instances where the changes are instituted by people who are trained and experienced, and who have found working with new methods and ideas result in positive and successful situations, I’m strongly in favor of introducing them to accompany those methods that have a history of working.

Just because something works for an individual who is trained and experienced does not mean it will work for others. Perhaps it will work for no one else, in which case it should be abandoned except for personal work. Perhaps it will work for some people, in which case it should be accepted as an alternate. And if it works for all to a level better than the original, it should be adopted.

Just because something is new and works for one person
doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

So I am in favor of change when and where it is warranted. I am not in favor of holding on to obsolete practices and concepts. On the other hand, I am also not in favor of change just for the sake of change. There should be theoretical, philosophical, and practical reasons to alter something that is currently working.

Or put more simply, thoughtful and effective change in magickal techniques should be adopted. Unconsidered, ineffective, or politically motivated changes should be ignored.

What do you think? Do you embrace everything new or do you seek something older? Let us know in the comments section.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013
8:00 p.m. Eastern——5:00 p.m. Pacific

Live Interview with me on Aphrodite’s Kitchen
Tune in and listen:

Next Thursday, the 29th, I’m scheduled to be talking with hosts Anita Perez and Tidal Millar of Aphrodite’s Kitchen. Among various topics we’re going to be discussing is Tantra as a complete spiritual system. Even though most people think Tantra is just “that sex stuff,” it’s actually a full Pagan system that has been practiced and evolved for thousands of years. To find out about real Tantra, be sure to click on the link above and listen in! Oh, we may get into a bit of Tantric sexuality, too.

Written by Donald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area on such ...