Over the past century or so, the model of society has undergone a drastic change due to a variety of influences. We have moved from a society where people lived with extended families—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, children, grandchildren, and even friends—to one where the ideal is the nuclear family (parents and children only). We used to live in closely-knit communities or tribes where people had common interests and needs, and have now distanced ourselves so that we often don’t know more than a few neighbors.
But it seems that in some ways, people still have a need for that tribal experience. All over the world, people are moving toward temporary tribal events. They may be small, such as the first modern Pagan festivals that were held decades ago in Minnesota and sponsored by Llewellyn, or they may be enormous, such as the Burning Man festival that brings together tens of thousands of people in the desert near Reno, Nevada.
Tribal experiences usually require some sort of initiation or task for people to accomplish beyond merely having similar interests. Today, that may be a need to travel, pay a fee, or both. It shows commitment to the tribe. I would contend, then, that becoming a member of a group such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is an example of being a part of a tribe.
The Golden Dawn Didn’t Teach Magick
The first step in becoming part of a tribe into which you were not born is some sort of approval process. In the original Golden Dawn you were supposedly observed astrally. You might also be invited to a party that included members who would watch you and determine whether or not you should be invited into the clan. Today, this may be done through a written or oral interview. If accepted you would be invited in on a provisional basis. It would have the purpose of seeing if you wanted to continue and if the members of the Order thought you were an appropriate member. You would receive initiation while knowing little of the Order—maybe not even knowing the name—and nothing of what they taught. You would receive instruction in certain basic occult knowledge, a meditation, and one basic protection ritual. You received nothing magickal per se.
When ready, you would be tested to see if you knew the information. If you passed, you would receive initiation into the next level where you would receive more occult information and another meditation. Again, nothing magickal per se. This pattern was repeated through the entire Golden Dawn. You never really had any magick instructions. How, then, did the Golden Dawn become known as a magickal Order?
The Golden Dawn is actually part of three linked groups. The Golden Dawn itself was considered the “outer order” where you prepared to learn magick. The second, or “inner order,” was technically known as the Rosea Rubea et Aurea Crucis. That is Latin for “Red Rose and Golden Cross,” and is often spoken of as the RR et AC. Members considered this to be the Rosicrucian Order. It was here that people who had received the training and preparation would be taught magick. Entry into this inner part of the tribe was not given to everyone who went through the degrees (although it often is today). Members of the inner order would have to choose to allow you in. It is not well known, but it seems that those whom the members of the inner order didn’t think could handle magickal concepts and techniques would be initiated into a dummy degree which was an extension of the Golden Dawn and not part of the RR et AC.
The final or “third order” was called the Astrum Argentum, Latin for “Silver Star,” abbreviated as AA. It was believed that you could not be part of this order while you were incarnated. After Aleister Crowley parted ways with the Golden Dawn, he set up his own magickal order called the AA, an act that upset many members of the Golden Dawn!
Speed! Speed! Speed!
Today, our lives are going faster and faster. We get fast food and watch TV comedies where we change the channel if every line doesn’t get a laugh. We want fast cars (although it’s rare that we can drive them fast) and fast Internet access. We don’t want to learn healing practices, we want a pill or surgery that will make us well or beautiful—and fast! This need for speed has had an effect on several groups that call themselves the Golden Dawn. They start teaching magick rituals right away because that’s what the “market” wants. In my experience, most who join such groups end up falling away because they did not take the time to adequately prepare. Some people who join those groups do become excellent mages, but most simply wear their sashes of membership until they get bored of their magick not working. More and more, people reach out to others via the Internet. It’s not the same as an in-person membership, but for many it gives the feeling of belonging to something wonderful and being a magician in the style of the Golden Dawn.
If you are starting out and want to learn the Golden Dawn system, and either do not want to join or cannot join a temple, I would respectfully suggest that rather than trying to do advanced Enochian magick, you start at the beginning and learn the basic concepts and theories thoroughly. There are several good books that can help you on this path.
The first, of course, is Israel Regardie’s famous book, The Golden Dawn.
After you have completed the preparatory work, you may start augmenting what you have learned by gaining added information from external sources. Here are some of my suggestions:
For the most concise overview of the Golden Dawn and its system, study The Essential Golden Dawn by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. It covers the history of magick leading up to the Golden Dawn as well as that of the Order. It explains the structure of the Order, the tools you can use, as well as the basic rituals you’ll perform and the nature of magick.
For greater insight into the nature of magick and mind, I also recommend Regardie’s three classic books, The Tree of Life, The Middle Pillar, and A Garden of Pomegranates. The first is a complete introduction to magick. The second is about the powerful use of magickal energy as taught by the Golden Dawn. The third is an in-depth analysis of the Qabalah. The editions available today have been greatly expanded by the Ciceros, making these books some of the most valuable ones around.
First I Tell You …
There’s an old story about a minister famed for his sermons. When asked what he does to make them so memorable, the response was supposedly, “First I tell you what I’m going to tell you, then I tell you, then I tell you what I told you.” Repetition is a good way to learn things, but it can be boring to simply repeat the same thing. Rather, studying the same materials in different ways helps us learn things and gives greater understanding.
That’s why, after doing all of this work, I suggest you start working through Self Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition by the Ciceros. This will provide you with more depth and different insights into your development as a Golden Dawn magician. Then you will be ready to go back to Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, read through and study the ceremony of initiation into the Adeptus Minor Grade (the first level of the inner order) where you will begin performing the magickal rituals described later in the book.