Saturday, February 12, 2011

Much To Do - So Little Time To Do It

Next week Friday begins Pantheacon, and I will be there presenting two workshops. I will be out of town and out of pocket for five days, so I have a lot of tasks, both domestic and occult, to accomplish both before and after that event. I am really looking forward to Pantheacon, perhaps more than at any previous year because I will get some time to talk and hang out with David Griffin and his newly adopted Stregan clan, the del Bosco Sacro family. I will also get to meet Diana and Dianus and attend their presentations. David has become something of a good friend and a mentor to me, even though I am about as outside of the Golden Dawn tradition as one could possibly be.

I will also get a chance to hang out with my other good friend and mentor, Tony Mierzwicki, whose friendship and insights I have relied on for over two years. Tony has not only given me sage advice about magickal and occult subjects, he also helped my literary career along as well. I owe a great debt of gratitude to him and his lovely wife, who is something of a master at the art of laying out books for publication. It will be good to see Tony and Jo-Anne, and to talk to them face to face instead of only through the media of phone and email.

Pantheacon will also give me an opportunity to reacquaint myself with Lon Milo DuQuette, Athena W. and Ivo Dominguez Jr. I have been reading Ivo’s book “Spirit Speak” and have enjoyed it immensely. I have found him to be incredibly brilliant and deeply informed, both from a scholarly point of view as well as an experiential one. Athena is a very accomplished goetic sorceress and an enochian magician - she will be presenting a workshop on BDSM at Pantheacon, so that will be quite interesting. Athena also has a great sense of humor and is also quite down to earth. I hope to share a few jokes and stories with Lon, because he is one person where humor can not only be shared but also inspired. Lon’s wit, humor, and common sense approach to life in general is always thoroughly appreciated.

I hope to also get a chance to say hello and a hug to Oberon Zell Ravenheart, head master of the Grey School of Magic. I enjoyed hanging around and chatting with him at Heartland last year, and I hope to renew my acquaintance with him. Since the passing of Isaac Bonewits last August, I have felt the need to be more appreciative of the pioneers and trail blazers of my religious movement because it seems that fate has begun to claim some of them from our midst, and what time remains should be seen as precious. When I was young, all of these founders were also still fairly young and healthy, and it seemed like we had nearly forever to do our thing and get on in the world. Now it seems as if fate and irony have intervened to let us all know that our time in this world is quite limited.

So I am looking forward to having a great time seeing all of these folks and meeting new ones. I am also looking forward to presenting my two classes and having a meeting of minds with those who attend. There’s a lot of preparations, packing, buying things, organizing, cleaning, and spending some quality time with my significant other, who I am sad to say, won’t be attending this year’s event with me.

I also wanted to write a few comments about the latest post that Mr. Eckstein quoted in his blog “Gleaming of the Golden Dawn,” which were from Patrick Zalewski and his Golden Dawn Yahoo Group - you can find it here. Patrick has said, once again, that he doesn’t believe that there are any secret chiefs, and that such a belief is a myth and even a distraction to the work of a Golden Dawn initiate. I can understand his perspective and also why he stated this so emphatically. There are two sides to this issue, and these two sides not only don’t agree with each other, but they have been engaged a very hotly contested argument.

There is another side that says that there were and still are secret chiefs and that the order of the Golden Dawn has proceeded in an orderly manner from the basic cipher manuscripts and permissions from the German adept Ms. Sprengle that were granted to the three chiefs of the original Golden Dawn. Whether you believe that this was true or just made up to foster a fake legitimacy as far as the Golden Dawn is concerned doesn’t negate the reality and the importance of the Golden Dawn today. However, there is an important implication in either denying or accepting the validity of the secret chiefs, and this is what I wanted to articulate to my readers.

If Patrick Zalewski is correct, and there are no secret chiefs, then the implication is that there is no third order of the Golden Dawn and that the current founders and their second order adepts are all that there is to the Golden Dawn teachings and practices. It also forces the Golden Dawn to be much more engaged in authentic practices than legitimacy, since such an opinion presumes that the original founders would have supposedly just invented the Order based on their own studies and imagination. So that is the world according to Patrick Zalewski, and it is a kind of dull and sad world bereft of mystery and any real higher magick. There are no masters, so whatever we have in regards to lore and occult knowledge represents the very limit of what is known or even capable of being known. It almost seems to make the Golden Dawn into an occult dead end with little prospect of anything new or startling coming to light.

I find that all rather disheartening, but it is no different than my own current situation, although I have plenty of other occult practitioners and scholars who know much more than I do - there is still something yet for me to learn and creatively adapt into my own spiritual and magickal process. There are also quite a number of spirits and entities to engage and communicate with throughout the Inner Planes. I am also not limited to just occultism and the practice of ritual magick. Life itself is a great teacher, and there are remarkable men and women everywhere one looks, and from time to time, I have been lucky enough to meet a few of them.

Yet something to consider in Pat Zalewski’s words brings about the other possibility that we need to at least admit to ourselves. The other possibility is that there are secret chiefs, and perhaps if we listen to the leaders of one branch of the Golden Dawn (HOGD), it would seem even very likely. It means that the Golden Dawn is an organization that is both legitimate and authentic, and that there is indeed a third order above and beyond the second order practices and lore.

I for one find that a much more happier prospect! Suddenly the world is much more romantic, mysterious and nearly limitless in regards to occult teachings and self mastery. It means that there is a possibility of finding an obscure great teacher and actually learning new and more vital occult lore and practices. To believe that there is someone in the world who might know a whole lot more about the Western occult tradition than I do, breathtakingly more, is quite exciting and gratifying. If it’s a false notion, then nothing is really lost, since it will, at the very least, cause me and many others to perfect ourselves for the sake of admittance to an organization of masters.

So I don’t agree with Pat saying that such a belief is a distraction, that it somehow interferes with one’s growth or impairs the work of the practicing adept. Believing such a thing can only inspire one to do greater things.

Still, if Pat is dead wrong and the secret chiefs do indeed exist, then he, and all the others who agree that such a premise is false, are promoting an occult path that leads to nowhere except what one is capable of achieving alone and without aid. That aid might really exist, and individuals like Pat Zalewski are turning their backs to it without even testing their theory. It seems pretty foolish to me. We can stubbornly refuse any help from those who have a superior skill and knowledge for the sake of being independent and self directed, but at some point, everyone needs a helping hand to get beyond some personal conundrum or overcome obstacles. To steadfastly refuse even when that help is offered could be considered a form of obstinate stupidity, which can either be admired, laughed at or perceived as a tragic and fatal personal flaw. I would tend to see it as a tragic and fatal flaw, and I am happy to say that I am not so afflicted. If given the opportunity, I will gladly accept someone’s help, and I would be particularly gratified if that person was a supposed master or secret chief.

It reminds me of the often quoted Irishman who said in a dissembling manner: “Well, I don’t be saying that I believe in the little people, and then again, I don’t be saying that I don’t believe in them, either.” We can hedge our bets and believe in the secret chiefs and not be hurt by such a supposition if it's wrong, but we may also be greatly rewarded if it's true. I would rather behave as if the proposition is true so that I might someday actually be rewarded by the discovery of a pot of gold at the end of rainbow. Would I refuse to accept it if I found it, hell no! I would fill my pockets and hands with all I could carry!

Do I believe in deathless, omniscient and omnipresent masters, such as are celebrated in some Theosophical or New Age groups? No - I really don’t believe in that myth. However, I do believe in remarkable men and women, and that the average human life span affords some the time to perfect far beyond the ordinary lot in life. I also believe that there are a lot of secret and obscure lore that is not available to the public in the form of published books or web based information.

There are real mysteries in the world, and real individuals who live and work their secret purposes in the powerful shadows of those mysteries. I also believe that I am living at a time in my life when some of those mysterious shadows may open to me and reveal some of their secrets, and that I may indeed meet some very remarkable men and women who might just have something very critical and important to teach me. I optimistically look forward to that time, and I do believe that it will happen someday.

Meanwhile, there is so much work to do, things to write, presentations to put together and magick to practice. So much to do, and so little time to do it all. Life is fleeting, and I am not getting any younger - but I have hope that circumstances will all come together and reveal to me my ultimate destiny, long before I die.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Care Fr Barrabbas,

    Thank you for this interesting post. I hope that you receive much and give well at Pantheacon.

    A few thoughts on the Secret Chiefs: If we are meaning a Third Order with PHYSICAL Secret Chiefs, then there is little evidence the historical GD were contacted. However, unlike you I do not think this means “the original founders would have supposedly just invented the Order based on their own studies and imagination.”

    Westcott and Mathers could very likely have been instructed in some fashion by high adepts from other Orders. Westcott, to quote RA Gilbert, joined “nearly all” the esoteric Orders of his day. They easily could have received instruction/manuscripts from such a source and couched it in a Third Order framework of physical adepts, since that was the prevailing occult mythos at the time. This is not to deny that any contemporary Order may have been contacted by a physical Third Order, but the proof would be in the pudding and if it’s a private banquet we may never know for sure.

    On the physical front there may well be physical western ‘masters’, just like the Rinpoches who I have received initiation from and whom I do accept as being something other than the normal spiritual adept. However, pretty much all such people come from a life dedicated to this end, monks, nuns, yogis etc, and as much as it may be unfashionable, if I were searching for physical masters I would look more to Jewish or Christian communities than the occult community. The Eastern Orthodox churches have living Saints, the Jewish communities have living Tzaddkim.

    I do not think the GD without Secret Chiefs has to be a “kind of dull and sad world …with little prospect of anything new or startling coming to light.” As you would know Frater, even the simplest of symbols is a living entity in its own right, a rich source of spiritual blessings and interior knowledge. So much more so the complete GD, which is so rich and full, it can be plumbed and extended to an almost infinite degree. Of course, if this is the case, then the system itself would have to have been created by some pretty special forces/beings/people, which does (in my view) bring us back to something above the ordinary, but which other GD folk do not necessarily agree.

    And then there is the possibility that real non-physical ‘Chiefs’ outside Westcott and Mathers’ imagination were the source for much of the system, something Mathers also refers to. This makes sense to me.

    On a personal level, all my depth spiritual work has involved, in some way, inner plane beings. To me, like Dion Fortune, this is a crucial aspect of all magical work, particularly lodge work. Other GD folk, like Regardie, will have none of this and I think this is where Pat sits. However, as I teased out on the forum that Morgan quoted from, Pat does acknowledge inner plane “generic spiritual guidance” and that his mentor Jack Taylor had inner “guides occasionally”.

    With this and the generic concept of inspiration in mind, I try and reconcile these two differing views. Maybe the mystery I know of as inner contacts, non-physical ‘Secret Chiefs’ if you will, manifest as personalised contacts to some magicians, but as more diffuse ‘inspiration’ and ‘genius’ to others? I think it is always better to look for what unites us than divides us, though I will admit it is hard on this issue sometimes.

    Finally, another piece of Irish folk wisdom quoted by Robert Anton Wilson concerning the Pookah, a mythical ‘faery’ being manifesting as a human sized rabbit. A County Kerry farmer was asked if he believed in the Pookah, to which he replied, “That I do not! and I doubt very much that he believes in me either!” I think it may the same with the Secret Chiefs :)

  2. Care Frater Barrabbas,

    Your comment has caught the eye of Mr. Zalewski, who has interpreted you as stating "...that no secret chiefs equals no magick."

    Well maybe I have missed something in your message but I couldn't see anything in your words that says that magic doesn't work without contact with advanced master teachers. On the contrary you say that one may perform magic without it, and that you yourself certainly will continue with striving to better yourself with your own personal magic, as far as that may take you.

    How I have understood you is that you admit that there may be persons out there that are way more advanced than yourself in learning and magical ability, that may actually teach you things that you never could come up solely by yourself; you are simply being humble with your own efforts. I believe that Mr. Zalewski's comments says more about his own shortcomings thay yours.

    It hurts to see that you have been dragged down into the usual Golden Dawn feud bullshit.

    So, keep up the good work!

    In Licht, Leben und Liebe,

  3. @Peregrin - I already have several inspired inner plane connections, spirit allies and various other connections (ancestors, deities, etc). But how much better that would be if I did indeed meet with some flesh and blood magickal masters? I suspect that left to my own workings, I will only be able to achieve so much. Also, not believing in a Pookah won't protect one from becoming prey to its mischief. So you have been warned! ;-)

    @Sincerus Renatus - Thank you for your kind words. I am not being dragged down into the GD feud because I am not a member of that organization - also, Pat Zalewski has failed to come to this blog and leave his own personal comment. That also goes for his allies as well. I guess you could say that I am just too below their concerns in that regards, which doesn't bother me at all.

    I have said what I said, and with no concern for any of the inner squabbling in the various GD groups. My perspective is that of an outsider.

  4. I thought all that Pat Zalewski said was that he had never been in contact with the mysterious Secret Chiefs, and that he would not claim them as the basis of authority, as in "the secret chiefs told me you must do such and such". This does preclude other spiritual contacts. Seems reasonable to me.


  5. Oops - I meant "does NOT preclude"...

  6. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! It brings up an interesting problem in magic that is not often spoken of. This is: what do we do with information that may or may not be true, but nevertheless may serve a purpose? From the very start of one's magical career one encounters a dizzying stream of ideas, images and symbolic systems. A few are 'true'; a great many are useful; others are complete rubbish. And we can't always tell at first what is true or useful. How do we integrate these all into our minds so that they can be of future use to us, but without actually making them 'true'? In other words, how does one assimilate a 'factoid' without making it 'fact'? How do we retain all this stuff without sacrificing our intellectual integrity?
    My early experience gave me a good method: I seemed to best remember either those things that I believed immediately, or those that I found laughably ridiculous. I thus discovered that humour provided an effective framework on which to build my view of a semi-factual world. Other things work just as well as humour: the frameworks of art or make-believe play, for instance.
    And it turns out that all these frameworks, which we might generically term 'mythical', are not only great for retaining and contextualising information; they're also brilliant conduits for magic.
    Magic works best in a space of unfettered possibility, and magic finds ways of making possibilities become real. The value of myth is that it enables and powers the entire space of magical operation, by enabling and empowering all possibility.

    And of course, as we grow in magical understanding and experience, we begin the process of consolidating and resolving many of the 'factoids' we have subscribed to -- even allying them to cold intellectual 'fact'. Impossibilities become realities; paradoxes melt away from higher points of view. Thus the stockpiles of cruft turn out to contain rich seams of gold.

    In the mythical space, secret chiefs and enlightened masters occupy a place of honour. If in the world of cold intellectualism the most we can yet say is "who knows?", well, don't let that discourage you...

  7. It's disheartening to see people recommending willful self-deception and fantasy over intellectual discernment.

  8. It's even more disheartening when someone doesn't appear to even understand what the conversation is about. I would also advise Mr. Anonymous to pick a worthy icon instead of hiding behind a catch-all user name.

  9. I have been following the entire discussion about Secret Chiefs here, on Morgan Eckstein's blog and on Pat Zalewski's forum. There are clearly two schools regarding the Secret Chiefs. On the one hand there is Mathers who claims that they are physical, represent an advanced Rosicrucian tradition, and provided him with the Golden Dawn's Second Order material. On the other hand, there are those like Felkin who believe that the Secret Chiefs are some sort of "Astral Masters."

    Zalewski says he does not believe in Secret Chiefs, calls people nuts who believe in them, and says that GD leaders can easily use them to manipulate people. Since this is what Robert Zink has been up to for decades, one must give Zalewksi cerdit that about this he is likely right.

    On the other hand, it is also important to understand where Pat Zalewksi is really coming from and what his interests are to really understand his position. Of course Pat Zalewski does not believe in any sort of Secret Chiefs. In fact, Pat Zalewski even secretly Fears that they might exist. You see, if the Golden Dawn did not simply fall out of the sky "ready made" as Zalewski would like everyone to believe, but instead was late emanation of a legitimate Hermetic and Rosicrucian initiatic tradition, this would negate Pat Zalewski's entire work and career.

    To understand this one must consider that Pat Zalewski considers the Golden Dawn as his own private playground, an uncompleted work in progrees. Need another knowledge lecture? Just make one up? Need more Godforms? Just invent some and pretend that they either came from Whare Ra or from Mathers himself.

    To Pat's great credit, at least in recent years he has in recent years begun to be more honest in taking responsibility for his own inventions instead of hiding behind Mathers or Whare Ra's coat tails. As any serious scholar of the Golden Dawn understands, however, that Pat Zalewski's older books remain riddled with such inventions and misattributions.

    Coming back to the subject of Secret Chiefs, a couple of things, at least, are certain. Pat Zalewski readily admits that he has never been contacted by any Secret Chiefs. This certainly does not prove that Secret Chiefs do not exist. In fact, if any sort of Secret Chiefs did exist, they clearly would have no reason at all ever to contact Pat Zalewski - and would actually have plenty of reason not to.

    You see, there are only two possibilities.

    The first possibility is that Pat Zalewski was never initiated in the Golden Dawn as either an Adeptus Minor or even as a Neophyte as his former housemate and long-term student, Sam Robinson has claimed. If this is the case, why should any sort of Secret Chiefs be interested in Pat Zalewski in any way whatsoever. The second possibility is that Pat Zalewski's rather dubious claim is true that he was initiated by Jack Taylor on his death bed. (Sam Robinson claims that this is bullshit and he was only given an "etheric link".

    Let's give Pat the benefit of the doubt and assume that Sam Robinson was mistaken and that Jack Taylor actually did give Pat 7=4 grade from his wheel chair. Although Pat claimed something very different in his books in the past, Pat changed his story to make this odd claim after Robinson's exposee, but Pat has never provided any proof at all to back even this up.

    Even in this best case scenario, it is incontrovertible fact that Pat Zalewski later published the Stella Matutina 7=4 Ritual. Thus, even if Pat Zalewski did receive the highly irrregular 7=4 initiation from Jack Taylor that Pat claims once Jack Taylor is dead and can not deny it, Zalewksi would nonetheless be considered by any legitimate initiatic school, Secret Chiefs or otherwise, as completely untrustworthy.

    Thus, In his assertion that he has never been contacted by any Secret Chiefs, I think we can safely assume that at least here (for once) Pat Zalewski is being at least somewhat honest.

  10. I've just brought myself up to speed on some of the communications that have been flying regarding Pat Zalewski's degrees. For the sake of fairness, I think it's worth noting that Pat has never to my knowledge claimed a "legitimate" GD lineage, since Jack Taylor was not in a position to give it to him. The Whare Ra was finished, so no "legitimate" degrees have been given since then. Pat's initiation was presumably much like Lenny/Jean-de-Cabilis' initiation from Frank Salt: the grade was given, but not under the auspices of a warranted GD temple. That is the story I have understood since the late 90s and I have never had reason to doubt it.
    I also got the impression that Pat's and Chris' initial GD working group was viewed favourably by key members of the OTR, and I don't think this would have happened if he were outright lying about his connection to Jack Taylor and ex-Whare Ra members.
    The Zalewskis' group and their early books were valuable in renewing interest in the GD system, and showing that it could be worked in a non-lineaged fashion. They poured a lot of time and energy into this system at a time when it was not so fashionable as it is now, and I think we owe them some credit for this.

    I am not a friend of Pat Zalewski's, and in fact the (very) few times I have communicated with him I have been rather put off by his manner. I can't comment on the various other accusations made against him, but I submit that even if true, these do not detract from his claim to initiation. Elevated degrees so often have no bearing on a person's level of spiritual maturity. I note that one of Pat's key detractors, a man with a very similar claim to Pat's regarding post-Whare-Ra GD-style initiation, started out with the best intentions but has become increasingly erratic over the years, and has contributed to some real unpleasantness here in NZ by his uncanny knack of allying himself to malicious, self-serving and deceitful influences.

    There are so many who claim (and have received) high degrees of initiation, but have become lost in their own egos -- and it shows a mile off. I have learnt over the years to trust my impressions of people and not be dazzled by titles, degrees, funny clothes or even people's ability at magical manifestation (for spiritual maturity is not necessary for many such psychic gymnastics).

    I have met some very advanced magicians, and every one of them has had human failings. Some horrifyingly so. Perhaps the secret adepts we seek are those who have utterly transcended all their human flaws, and truly manifest those spiritual attainments which all our high-fallutin' degrees are supposed to confer. Is that an impossibility? Who knows.

    But I think we can put a lot of this wrangling over legitimacy aside, and cut straight to the chase of where true spiritual authenticity resides: "By their fruits ye shall know them."