Hermetic Qabalah And The Golden Dawn

In view of the evidence that Rosicrucianism, though high spiritual allegory, was a seventeenth century myth, the Golden Dawn "history lesson" incorporated into its Adeptus Minor ritual of initiation is interesting. It begins: "Know, then, O Aspirant, that the Mysteries of the Rose and the Cross have existed from time immemorial, and that the Rites were practiced, and the Wisdom taught, in Egypt, Eleusis, Samothrace, Persia, Chaldea and India, and in far more ancient lands."55 The ceremony continues to directly paraphrase the description of the life of Christian Rosencreutz in the Fama Fraternitas.

It is probable that most of the members of the Order believed that Christian Rosencreutz had been an actual person, and that the Golden Dawn was in a direct line from his fraternity. Whether Mathers and Westcott understood the real history is another matter entirely.56 There are many instances of both having accepted traditional misattributions of mystical literature. Westcott for example, wrote an introduction to The Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster, describing them as embodying "many of the principle features of Chaldean philosophy."57 We know that the Oracles were actually writen by Julianus, a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius,58 but the conclusions about authorship on many such works is quite recent.

What is most important, however, is that we are able to uncover so many of the Order's historical tracks. Thus, its leaders are understood to have built carefully on a known traditional framework. The Hermetic Qabalah today bears the marks of Westcott and Mathers. Even the spelling of the Hebrew word Qabalah (as opposed to "Kabbalah," or "Cabala"), was chosen by Mathers as being more consistent with the original language ( i?np ). And the Qabalistic correspondences found in Aleister Crowley's 777 appear to be based largely on Mathers' work. It is with the Order of the Golden Dawn that the modern system of Path colors on the Tree of Life (see following section) and other attributions first appear. The Order developed an elaborate system of teaching based on ritual, although the extent to which the well-known Banishing Rituals may be theirs is uncertain. At least such rituals are not found in Agrippa, Barrett or other magical treatises prior to the Golden Dawn. Here again, the ways in which an oral tradition may have been involved cannot be determined. Historical evidence notwithstanding, the story of Christian Rosencreutz unquestionably taps into some secret tradition. It certainly relates to the same Universal patterns symbolized by the Tarot.

The "Hermetic" emphasis of the Golden Dawn on the Egyptian Gods was partly social, and partly traditional. In late nineteenth century England there was great curiousity about anything mysterious and obscure, the science of archaeology being still in its infancy (in 1900, for example, no Greek art prior to the Parthenon was known!). Emphasis on the Egyptian Gods served to separate the participants in ritual from the daily routines of Victorian life. It also effected a separation from Christianity. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn affirmed the pure Renaissance Hermeticism of Ficino.

Philosophically, the system of Egyptian Gods is very comfortably equated with the Qabalah. Despite the apparent proliferation of Gods and Goddesses, Egyptian religion was monotheistic. All of the Gods were aspects or modifications of one ultimate and original deity. Moreover, like the Qabalah, the Egyptian pantheon shows different aspects of the same God under different circumstances. For example, there are many forms of Horus, all of which have the name Heru imbedded in its Egyptian name, such as "Horus the Child," or "Blind Horus (Horus at the Head of Sightlessness)" or "Horus of the two Horizons," whom the Greeks called Harmachis as opposed to Harpocrates.

Horus is Child who is the center of our known Universe in the Qabalah, and to whom we refer in a variety of ways. And as the Child appears in a variety of ways, so do the Great Father and the Great Mother. All of this was clearly understood by the Golden Dawn, who found considerable utility in the Egyptian system of Gods. These Gods express universal relationships better than any other Pantheon. Today, however, the Order's dependence on Egyptian Gods is viewed by many students as only a curiosity of the past.

Continue reading here: The Tree Of Life

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