So here we are in the new year, and I have several little comments to make so far. A more engaging article is in the works and should be posted over the next week and a half. Before that article goes into my future post queue, I wanted to discuss a few minor things that I have been noticing on the blog scene, as well as talk a little bit about some topics that I am currently thinking about.
First off, I received a copy of Scott Stenwick’s newest book “Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy,” (Pendraig Publishing 2011) and I have looked it over. This looks like a really interesting and useful book, which will give the Enochian magician an important complete system of planetary magick to add to the already existing and well documented systems of Elemental and Talismanic Elemental magick. Scott takes two approaches to this more obscure Enochian material, and these two paths will satisfy the adherent using the Golden Dawn methodology of magick as well as the grimoire afficionado who wants to work magick as it would have been worked by Dee himself.
I can say that both approaches are satisfactorily documented, making this book a lot more valuable than it might be if one approach was chosen over the other. Scott is an excellent writer and has made this book quite accessible to the average occultist, so it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone who seeks to master this system of magick to be able to do so. As a friend and magickal associate, Scott is one of those remarkable men that I have had the honor to know and talk with from time to time. So I am recommending that if you have any interest in Enochian magick, this book is an important addition to your library of magickal books. Also, you can find his book on Amazon here, and his blog, here.
Not very many magicians have worked with the Heptarchia Mystica, those mysterious 49 spirits who are also called the Bonarum, or “Good Spirits.” These entities are divided into three groups, which include seven kings, seven princes and thirty-five ministers. The seven kings are used to produce a high level type of magick (visions, knowledge and illumination), and the seven princes are used for more practical or earth-based endeavors. The groups of seven kings and seven princes each have a controlling or ruling spirit (Carmara and Hagonel), which brings the number to eight spirits in each group. The rest of the 35 spirits are supernumerary ministers who are invoked through the hierarchy of king and prince. Like most forms of planetary magick, the magician must use both the planetary ruler of the day and the hour to “tune” the working to the specific planet. Scott has been careful to ensure that the use of these spirits are in agreement with the text found in the diaries and writings of John Dee, thus establishing the boundaries of what would be considered the accepted Enochian tradition of magick.
I have also worked extensively with the Heptarchia Mystica, but unlike Scott, I approached this system in a manner that completely ignored what Dee wrote and established in his diaries. To me, a matrix of 49 spirits would obviously represent a symbolic table consisting of a base planet that is qualified by a second planet. In other words, I saw these spirits as a kind of binary planetary intelligence. Even their names begin with a “B” - representing to me that each spirit is a “Beta” or binary entity. Invoking one of these spirits would produce a complex whose basic meaning and value would oscillate between the qualities of the two planets; where the base planet would anchor the focus and the qualifier would add an additional dimension or even a conflicting polarity.
Having two planets banging against each other might seem strange or even counter productive, but such a mechanism can be found if one examines the dynamics of astrological planetary aspects in a natal, progressed or transit chart. The planets are in an angular aspect to each other, producing good and negative combinations in a natal chart, and this represents the dynamic planetary nature of a human psyche according to astrology. Using the spirits of the Heptarchia Mystica in this fashion will emulate the astrological dynamic interaction of two planets, which would unleash the power of that dynamic in the personality of the magician and all who are exposed to it. This produces a kind of magick that is not particularly useful for making probability changes in the physical world, but is truly amazing in the kind of powerful magickal internal effect that it manifests in the psyche of the magician. Thus, from the standpoint of the kind of magick that the 49 Bonarum would produce using my model, this type of magick would be purely theurgic. In other words, it would represent a process that I have referred to as a magickal “ordeal.”
Just so you understand what I am saying when I talk about engaging in ordeals as part of my magickal regimen, I am not discussing how difficult or intense the working is when performed. What I am referring to is a theurgic process that is analogous to the transformative initiatory cycle (which I have previously discussed), so that would mean that an ordeal is a kind of mini-initiation which advances the mind and spirit of the practitioner through an ultimate process of ascension. When I performed a series of seven invocations of these Bonarum, I did them every weekend for seven weeks, and ended the process through invoking the ruling spirit Carmara, therefore pulling the whole construct together into union with a ritual that I called the Septagramic Vortex Gate. The combination of all these invocations, performed in a tight and contiguous period of time, produced within my mind a profoundly illuminating process, which I have called an ordeal. It was also like going through a few years of psycho-therapy in just under two months.
Each of the distinct invocations of one of the seven Bonarum spirits produced a correspondingly powerful psychic effect. Some of them amplified internal psychic issues and complexes within me, producing disturbing and intensely difficult mental processes. Others exalted what could be considered my internal psychic virtues. Each spirit communicated directly with me, and gave me an important piece of my overall spiritual and magickal puzzle. I have written up each of these experiences and have analyzed them over the years. I can say that they greatly helped to advance my knowledge of magick and to evolve me as a person. Since I subscribe to the belief that magick should have an overall transformative effect on the practitioner, ascribing the Heptarchia Mystica to this kind of role makes sense to me. By opening the magician to the dynamics of his or her own internal psychic processes, the element of undergoing a kind of personal mystery seems to justify how I ended up developing this system of magick.
Looking over Scott’s book, I am fairly certain that what I have done with the Heptarchia Mystica is completely unwarranted and unsupported by the traditional Enochian lore as set down by Dee. Yet this is how I approached this obscure system of magick, and I had the assistance and advise of spirits that Dee himself had invoked and encountered many centuries ago. If those spirits sent me in a completely different direction than Dee himself went with these spirits, then I can only say that it is likely just one of many different resolutions that are available to a magician who is practicing magick in an inventive and creative manner. What that means is that there isn’t one correct or right way to work magick, which makes the practice of magick more like an art than a science.
Golden Dawn Issues (Still and Yet Again)
Morgan Drake Eckstein has been furiously writing up some interesting blog articles as of late. For those who are interested in the ongoing discussion between traditionalists, reconstructionists and revisionists in the Golden Dawn blogsphere, you can find his blog postings here. One thing that Morgan has recently discussed involves how to have a constructive discussion within the intra-Golden Dawn community instead of a flame war. He seems to be concerned that his comments and statements of belief will be misconstrued as a flame war by the other side of the Golden Dawn divide, namely the traditionalists headed by David Griffin of HOGD. Another point that he has discussed is the synthetic nature of the original Golden Dawn as shown in the contents of the Cipher Manuscripts, and that Mathers lost his connection to the Third Order due to his illicit mixing of various systems in the second order workings, and having that issue revealed by Aleister Crowley in the Equinox. This has brought up the issue of mixing unlike systems together, and whether or not you have to be a “master” in order to rightly perform this task.
First off, a flame war, in my opinion is where someone deliberately engages in defaming another individual or organization. Discussing differences of opinion is one thing, which if unresolvable, becomes nothing more than two people or parties agreeing to not agree. That isn’t a flame war. However, to declare that important beliefs and foundational ideals of a person or group are actually fraudulent, is, in my definition of the term, a form of flame war, especially if it isn't true.
You can agree or disagree that secret chiefs and a third order is relevant to your particular Golden Dawn organization, but to say that anyone who says that they have contact with such individuals or organization is a liar amounts to defaming their entire organization. This seems to be crux of the ongoing argument between certain Golden Dawn reconstructionists, who say that the secret chiefs never really existed, or that the founding of the Golden Dawn was fraudulent, or that Mathers was a liar, pervert or somehow demented, and the traditionalists, who truly believe in the secret chiefs, the third order and that the Golden Dawn was founded by individuals who were trustworthy and sound. This doesn’t mean that the founders of the Golden Dawn were perfect, but it does represent the fact that in order to accept the Golden Dawn teachings, you have to accept many of the inherent beliefs.
To attack the foundation is to destroy the organization, so why some reconstructionists feel it necessary to completely defame the Golden Dawn is beyond my understanding. I find that I don’t agree with anyone who seeks to destroy the foundation on which the Golden Dawn was based, so I have been in a natural harmonious agreement with those who revere the Golden Dawn and believe in its tenets.
In my opinion to push these various toxic talking points is to promote a flame war, since all it does is anger folks (some of whom are not even in the GD Order) and create extreme polarization within the community. However, to disagree and state one’s opinion, but to respect that others might hold a different or opposite belief (even passionately), is the basis of a constructive dialogue - one that I feel would be beneficial to the GD community. Name calling and defamation are not part of a dispassionate and constructive discourse. I hope that this simple contrast makes that difference quite clear.
Also, I suspect that the real reason that the third order cut its ties with Mathers had a lot more to do with his emerging instability, stubbornness and his poor choices in who to trust, such as the Horos scandal, the London lodge rebellion and the subsequent order schism, which occurred in 1900. Crowley didn’t publish the second order material in the Equinox (Liber O) until 1909, which was nearly a decade after all of these events had already occurred. So I truly doubt that the breaking of the relationship between Mathers and the secret chiefs was due to any inappropriate syncretism, despite what David Griffin has reported. When that severing of relationships occurred is anyone’s guess, but the early 1890's were times of remarkable growth and expansion in the GD community.
This brings me to the issue of syncretism and the fusion of incompatible lore. There are two schools of thought on this issue, and one is that whatever works is OK. Then there is another opinion that seeks to apply a certain amount of esthetics to the development and practice of magick and the occult. I think that a beginner or a careless dilettante doesn’t concern themselves about the esthetics of their rituals or even the congruency of their beliefs. Yet those who have had years of experience will discover by trial and error, and later, through a refined sensibility, what combination produces an elegant resolution and what combination produces occult garbage. Esthetics are, of course, subjective, but I think that one rule of thumb is to establish boundaries between different cultures, systems and methodologies that could produce disharmonious combinations or unworkable structures when mindlessly joined together.
Simplicity, consistency, orderliness and a certain intrinsic and intuitive harmonious blending of elements makes for an esthetically derived ritual or ceremony. To produce a manual on how one would do this could result in quite a large volume of writing, and its usefulness and relevancy would be hotly debated. I think that this is not a particularly useful topic, so I think that the prime rule is functionality.
If the early Golden Dawn seems to be highly syncretistic, then I think that state is analogous to most systems of occultism, both ancient and modern. As a witch, revisionist and ritual developer, I have no problems with experimentation and attempting to combine various systems together to discover new possibilities. By doing this I have, in my time, produced some unworkable junk, but also some truly astonishingly elegant systems and techniques - knowing the difference requires judgement, experience and making lots of mistakes.