Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great Rite & Sexual Alchemy - Ultimate Achievement?

There have been some articles in the blogsphere lately about nudity, sexuality, sex magick, and even the highest rites of sexual alchemy, as proposed in certain lines of the Golden Dawn. Of course there are detractors, dissenters and others who decry this sort of activity. As a witch and ritual magician as well as a modern pagan, sacral nudity and sacred sexuality are considered the highest forms of spiritual and magickal expression. Certainly, these practices are not for everyone, but just as I would be foolish to critique and condemn Christian or Jewish liturgical practices, so it would be just as idiotic for someone to condemn mine. We each have our own ways of worship and seeking a powerful alignment with what we conceive as the highest spiritual good, which some would call God. Still, if you are a practitioner of the Western Mystery Tradition, sacred sexuality is a highly important key to the whole process of emulating the One, the Union of All Being. That emulation is taught in witchcraft to be the joining of the Goddess and the God in primal sexual, emotional and psychic union. As witches we can do no better than being able to express that union in as perfect a manner as possible. That’s why it’s called the Great Rite, but it can also be called the “great wrong” if abused or done in an exploitative or abusive manner.

Also, when facing the immanence of the Godhead in a liturgical setting, as a sign of purity, integrity and complete openness, witches can adopt the divestment called “going skyclad,” which is a fancy way of saying sacral nudity. This is not a requirement for all witchcraft traditions, and typically, the Gardnerians and Alexandrians do require it, while others don’t. Yet what it symbolizes is a necessity of being completely open and transparent to the gods, so that there is nothing between them and us. This openness and transparency is also extended to those who are worshiping together, ensuring that all within that private and sacred sphere are respected and treated as representatives of the divine personages of the gods themselves. It symbolizes a level of integrity and purity of intent that is absolutely necessary, whether or not one will go to the extreme and be completely nude. One must be at least “nude” within oneself at the very least, and my experience is that this level of reverence is followed by nearly all adherents of witchcraft and paganism even if they refrain from being naked. You don’t have to strip off your robe to show the right degree of integrity and purity of intent, but in my opinion, it helps.

We of the Wicca say the words “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” to exemplify the mind set that we adopt when comporting ourselves within sacred space. What that means is that nudity and all forms of vulnerability are protected and guaranteed to be safe, and if anyone were to be stupid enough to violate that protection and guarantee, they would be considered corrupt and without any of the grace of the gods. It would be considered a form of a sacrilege to exploit others within a magick circle or temple. Are people preyed upon and taken advantage of in craft or pagan settings, yes, unfortunately, it does happen. But when it does happen, we are all expected to condemn it and the person who perpetrated it, or we, in turn are also without grace. These are the ideals, and it does pleasantly surprise me that most take them to heart and act with integrity and good faith. Yet there are always a few who use this very sacred setting to gratuitously take advantage of others, and to predate those who are vulnerable without any shame. While some may take the approach that this kind of behavior is somehow OK, in the community settings that I have been privy to (and I have lived all over the country), such activity is more often condemned with extreme prejudice. Sometimes the condemnations have been based on rumors and false accusations, and reputations have suffered due to the maliciousness and mendacity of others. All sides suffer when the exploitation is real or when it is falsely claimed. In my tradition there is little recourse to make when sexual exploitation occurs, since covens and their leaders are fully autonomous and there is no hierarchy that can arbitrate disputes and meet out punishment for wrong-doing. Instead, coven members get to vote with their feet, leaving a coven where they don’t feel safe or where the sacred trust and integrity is either a sham or has been suborned by a sexual predator. It is assumed that bad covens and leaders end up having no one left to exploit, since reputations and common community gossip usually also become endemic and continuous for such malefactors.

However, despite the possibility that one might be exploited, abused or used, this should in no way detract from the ideal that sacred sexuality is a great thing, and that sacral nudity is the highest honor that one can give to the gods, in my opinion. All life holds its risks, and exploiters and predators can be found everywhere. Persistence and seeking the greater good will, in my opinion, allow one to find a place and a group that holds the highest level of integrity, purity of purpose and trust between members. Such a group is more easily found in a Star Group, where all members are co-equal and the group functions through the building of consensus. Authority that is vested in one or two individuals, in my opinion, invites abuses, since there is no accountability nor any checks against that authority. If I had to be in a group that practices sacred sexuality and sacral nudity, I would rather it be in a group where everyone is respected, empowered and free to engage or not. Other types of groups have built in problems, as far as I am concerned. Anyway, you can look over the recent blog article that Rob wrote. I found it quite frank and relevant - you can find it here.

Then again, there is another related issue about sacred sexuality and how it used in forms of alchemy. This is a very old paradigm and it is not a recent invention. For someone to follow this paradigm is nothing short than continuing a spiritual and magickal path that would represent the greatest good and the highest degree of attainment. There are certainly other methodologies and practices in the west that would achieve this level of illumination and enlightenment, but few actually take the intrinsic nature of material existence in the west and make it into something that is sacred and fully representative of the Godhead. Sacred sexuality, as a part of the alchemical path, has been well established and represented over the years - we should be neither surprised by it or consider that it is somehow corrupting or deviant. One only has to examine traditions in the east to see that forms of Tantra are well represented, both in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. So we should consider that a western variant would be fully expected and not in anyway strange or pretentious. The fact that sacred sexuality is very important in forms of modern Wicca and Paganism should show that such a path is very much in keeping with the various western traditions, and probably has an antique precedence going back to pre-Christian times.

If a group or line in the Golden Dawn espouses a form of sacred sexuality as a variant of the alchemical path, then we should see that as not at all surprising, since it would readily fit in with a lot of other traditions and practices going on today, all of which, I might add, seek to conform to a methodology that espouses the highest form of integrity, purity of purpose and transparency. To behave in any other way would be to destroy the whole nature of that type of practice. I am, of course, referring specifically to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its claim to teach and practice a form of sexual alchemy, which I would assume is done with the highest degree of integrity. We are not talking about beginners here, and I would assume that if this teaching is like most methodologies of its kind, it requires a severely disciplined regimen of instruction, preparation, practice and personal achievement in order for it to emulate the highest level of spiritual and physical being found in the Godhead. I am not familiar with what goes on in the HOGD organization, since the inner order teachings are protected by oaths and secrecy, and rightly so. Still, I would assume that if this group, who is headed by someone that I respect and know, requires a high degree of discipline and personal integrity, then the outcome would be truly glorious, as it is for those of us who are witches and pagans. We can understand and highly value sacred sexuality, and we also know that if it is practiced correctly, it can produce total illumination and at-one-ment with the Godhead. There are other methodologies, certainly, but this particularly method is not unknown to witches and pagans, and in fact, we share its basic tenets.

Now that I have made these points, I need to switch modes here and assume the mind-set of a general rant. I apologize in advance for having to bring this next issue to light. 

Then out of nowhere comes a rather slanderous short article by Robert Zink who claims that sacred sexuality is incapable of acquiring any form of enlightenment or union with the Godhead for those practitioners who engage in it. He couldn’t be more dead wrong if he stated that humans can’t fly, the moon-shot was a hoax, and that the world as we know it is actually flat. His premise is disguised by some Qabbalistic “mumble jumbo” about the parts of the overall spiritual body, but none of this is actually relevant to his argument. In fact, Robert Zink doesn’t have the first idea about what he’s talking about, and I would say that there is a world of practitioners out there who are proving him to be foolishly ignorant and inane on a daily basis.

This is not only a slap in the face of western practitioners of witchcraft, paganism and ceremonial magick, but also flies in the teeth of many traditions in the east. Why would the leader of a faction of the Golden Dawn (EOGD) say such an egregious and foolish thing? Well, in his article, he tells the reading public that sex magick is totally wrong, and that one particular Golden Dawn group is practicing it (you can guess which one, I am sure), and then tells his readers to beware of that group. So what we have here is some malicious slander and fear-mongering about a particular line of the Golden Dawn, which then attempts to condemn the whole basis of sacred sexuality. This doesn’t just hurt an opposing Golden Dawn group, it in fact hurts all of us who do strongly believe in this methodology and who are attempting to practice it in the highest level of integrity and purity of purpose we can. Robert Zink, in his zeal to slander a fellow Golden Dawn group, has instead insulted the entire Wiccan and Pagan tradition, not to mention adherents of various eastern traditions.

This is all sort of astonishing, and it is my hope that Mr. Zink really does some deep thinking before making such generalized and obviously false statements about a topic that knows absolutely nothing about. I know that I have mentioned him previously in the article about astral-only initiation, and how odd and ridiculous that was to many others besides myself. Yet his statements about sex magick have really gone over the top. While these practices can be abused and individuals can be exploited, these occurrences are not considered the norm, nor are they representative of the practice itself. I found his words “guttural sex magick” in regards to sacred sexuality to be quite offensive and completely unwarranted. Mr. Zink might not agree with the tenets of sacred sexuality, but to resort to using insulting and denigrating terms is quite amazing.

It’s my hope that other witches and pagans will reject these insulting and absurd accusations made by someone who is supposed to be part of our over-all movement. I am saddened by this behavior and I find it just as pernicious and vile as if it had been said by some foaming at the mouth religious bigot. Anyway, I believe that we can dismiss Robert Zink’s foolish diatribe as the kind of harsh, prejudiced and ill-informed screed that we would expect from our spiritual adversaries. It just amazes me that he has put himself on the same side as other intolerant sectarian pundits. I think that I can speak for the community when I say that I not only reject what Robert Zink has said, but I would recommend that others avoid his organization like the plague, since it doesn’t appear to be either pagan friendly or even open minded.

You can find Mr. Zink’s article and the HOGD rebuttal here. Now that we pagans know what side of the fence Mr. Zink is really on, we can steadfastly ignore any future utterances that come from him or his organization. At least you have my promise that nothing further will be brought to your attention about this man or his group. I feel that this was and is, the very last straw. 

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Care Frater,

    Thank you for this wonderful and moving exposition of western magical and pagan sexual mysteries.

    I agree with pretty much all of what you say. However, I do think a couple of other points may be relevant.

    As aghast and confused as I am concerning GH Fr PDR's comments re sexual mysteries in the western traditions, I do not think there is enough evidence to state the ORIGINAL Golden Dawn/RR et AC taught 'sex magic'. This is not to say they did not; just there is little evidence, Moina's ambiguous letter to PF Case notwithstanding. There is no reason to assume the 'sex matter' taught at the Higher Grades was physical sex magic.

    The sexual repressive attitudes of the Victorian-Edwardian era were extensive; GD adepts were not immune from it. The substratum of western sexual mysteries was very small and much hidden back then. It is only since the Wiccan promotion of sacred sexuality since the 1950s that it has changed, and the western magical traditions really need to acknowledge the Wiccan influence on this subject far more.

    Also, the sexual mysteries do not always involve physical coitus. There are example of this in classical ‘Hindu’ Tantra and Tibetan Tantra. Dion Fortune's fraternity, for example, used polarity magic extensively, but never physical sexual contact.

    All this said, I think if the original GD Order did not include the sexual mysteries they would have been brought into the tradition by some Order, some time not long after the classical GD period. As a western magical tradition, the sexual mysteries are not alien to the broad GD tradition. Personally however, since the subject is generally reserved for the higher degrees and requires extensive physical preparation, I do sometimes think there is too much chatter about these mysteries, which need to be experienced not described.

    Thanks. :)

  2. I didn't mean to imply that people should refrain from skyclad practice, or that it's dangerous. I try my best to promote skyclad work and I do think the dangers of rape and harassment are exagarrated, but considering the situation I don't think they're unwarranted.

    I don't know about your experiences, but I do know that in my local community sexual exploitation under the guise of spirituality is a huge problem, made even bigger by the fact that no one seems to care about it. I wrote the article mostly out of frustration.

    One of the real problems in this community is that during the eighties and through out most of the nineties one of these sexual predators (he was involved in the local swinger community and apparently at least tried to sleep with every high school girl that came to him spiritually) positioned himself in the central position of power and authority in the local Ceremonial and Pagan communities, and it was during a period when these communities were still largely unified. He also did it during a period when most of the community elders had either died or had given up on the community and went underground. The few that were left were his friends, and so there wasn't really anyone left in the community to stand up to him.

    Now we're at the point where most people who are in their mid-thirties up to their mid fifties that have been active in the local community all of their adult lives worked underneath this fellow. These are the people who are now the current group leaders, elders, and respected practitioners in the community, and have been since his death. And most of them have grown accustomed to his behavior. The ones that don't outright mimic him and consider it perfectly normal spiritual behavior at least find it acceptable and fail to condone it.

    Meanwhile a bit prior to his death the city started going through a transient phase, one that's only now starting to settle down. This made it nearly impossible to establish new groups, especially for younger practitioners, while at the same time allowing established groups that were bad to sustain themselves almost indefinitely with proper promotion (and often times using their age as a lure) because there has always been a fresh influx of new victims.

  3. It also doesn't help that this fellow was the last of the old guard when he died. Following his death there wasn't anybody left in a position of authority or power, or even anybody who could verify a lineage. Following his death a lot of new community leaders popped up, most who were fraudulent about their degrees, lineage, and qualifications. There were several instances, some going on up until today, of practitioner's stealing the name of and claiming to be former community members who have died.

    It became very hard in the community to find practicing groups or groups that could provide good teaching. A lot of cults popped up, as did a lot of groups meant to stroke the ego of their non practicing leadership. The aforementioned transient nature of the city didn't help. So now we have a situation where most of the older community members who can remember what was going on twenty years ago look at that period as the local community's last golden age. And so now, of course, this sexual predator and his methods are even more highly revered than they were during his life.

    I'm hoping that with the recent economic collapse and the city subsequently becoming a less desirable place to live that we'll start to see the magical community settle down and there will be room for new groups led by younger people who haven't yet been poisoned by what's already out there and hopefully we'll see some new community leaders and elders emerge. But part of making sure that this new community that is developing doesn't fall prey to the same behaviors that have been running rampant through this community for almost thirty years now is making sure that we make it abundantly clear to everyone involved that this behavior is no longer going to be acceptable, that those of us who find a position of authority won't allow it and will stand up to it, and that we are no longer going to associate with older members of the community who are still perpetrating this behavior, regardless of whatever else they might bring to the table.

    1. Rob: I know your post was written back about 4 years ago and maybe you’ll never see my response to your post, but I'm new to this blog, and felt impelled to respond. At the end of your fourth paragraph, you wrote: "The ones that don't outright mimic him and consider it perfectly normal spiritual behavior at least find it acceptable and fail to condone it."
      I think you meant to write ".....condemn it."

      Typically, in these days, at the END of the Kali Yuga, most true spirituality is inverted, and the practice of sexual predation is quite common across the spectrum of so-called "esoteric" groups and self-styled "leaders".
      I, myself, when I was 19, was involved in a group that had a “guru” who was always looking for young girls to prey upon sexually while he was married, besides secretly working for the CIA on a mind-control project which he used his mass of followers for in various ways, un-beknown to most or all of them. I also knew of a number of other “esoteric” groups that had a similar kind of sexual predatory nature coming from the upper echelon ranks.
      Compare these types of activities to Heckethorns: SECRET SOCIETIES OF ALL AGES, where he says that the initiate into the mysteries in the Ancient Egyptian Crato Repoa Temples was, at the beginning initiation point, was presented with very young, beautiful, semi-nude girls and if he made even a gesture of attraction to them, was slain on the spot. Maybe there is something awry in the so-called pagan-tradition? Also, the TAROT card, EL DIABLO, applies to this issue. Very very few humans can control that sexual energy, which is why the BAPHOMET GOAT, in the TAROT card, EL DIABLO, has a caduceus wand at the genital region, and Eliphas Levi had quite a bit to say about the force indicated by that IMAGE and why Levis' writings upon it are virtually copied verbatim in the 32° of the Scottish Rite.

  4. @Rob - I don't recall implying that you thought skyclad or sex magick were dangerous - in fact, I got that you like and approve of them in a respectful and reverent fashion. I did like your article a lot. I am sorry about the corrupt spiritual leader, that happens, but it can be overcome in time. Such occurrences don't negate the importance of sacral nudity and sacred sexuality, which are considered core aspects of my tradition of witchcraft.

    @Peregrin - I don't personally have any proof for sacred sexuality originally being practiced in the GD, but it does seem to have been represented by the alchemical writings of the Renaissance and later. So it would seem the possibility was there, whether or not it was practiced back then, it is a legitimate path in the GD today - in my humble and outside opinion.

  5. Thank you.

    I actually just got confused and I wasn't sure if my article came off as pro or anti skyclad, so I just wanted to clarify myself. It didn't seem like you were implying I was against it, but I just wanted to be sure I didn't come off that way. Especially since I was upset when I wrote it after having to deal with the same crap yet again.

  6. I wonder why you didn't mention 11° OTO? So, by your definitions, Crowley was a sexual low-life, who definitely used people for his "workings". Certainly, kabbalah is totally different than "sexual Qabbalah" as you describe it, and also different from "Hermetic Cabala", per the OTO or AA, which Perle Epstein, a direct descendant of the Ba'al Shem Tov, claimed was a "bastardized version" when she wrote a book about Malcom Lowrys' work:UNDER THE VOLCANO.

    I also wonder what's your view regarding so-called "casual sex", just for the sheer enjoyment and it relates to someone intent on attainment in your system of MAGIA.