Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn

In Defence of S.L. MacGregor Mathers

by GH.. Frater S.R.

There seems to be in vogue today to bash Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and accusing him of anything ranging from poor authorship, lack of understanding of his own creation (i.e. the Golden Dawn theurgical system) to general mischief. People are even suggesting it actually was Westcott who was the real genius behind the R.R. et A.C., forgetting that Westcott in his own writing giving all credit of the R.R. et A.C. to Mathers, while keeping the G∴D∴ (i.e. Outer Order) for himself.

Well, basically nothing’s new under the sun. It’s more or less a rehash of old rumours, gossip and pure speculation, albeit displays some originality and creativity. J.W. Brodie-Innes summed it up quite well back in 1919:

What was he - a great adept - a great scholar - a great impostor - a great rascal? I have heard all opinions, confidently, even dogmatically, asserted. As many and as contradictory opinions as were pronounced of Cagliostro.

Recently, Pat Zalewski and his ally Nick Farell has jumped on the bandwagon on their own personal crusade against MacGregor Mathers in general and his Rosicrucian Order of the A∴O∴ in particular, at the same time promoting the elevation of Felkin and the Stella Matutina (Whare Ra). The real reason behind this is of course to promote Nick Farrells upcoming book on the A∴O∴, which is said to reveal the “sad truths” abouth it, no doubt from an S.M. perspective. Pat Zalewski expressed the following sentiments on his own Yahoo-groups forum on July 3rd and August 1st:

I... will make the point that many of the tings in the 0=0 that we take as gospel are optional in the AO. This means that what was written for the ZAM (Z1,Z2,Z3 papers) would be severely compromised or simply thrown out if his wishes were taken to the extremity.

Mathers mental state needs a good look at by future historians. My own take on this is that after he left the GD he decided to change the rituals for changes sake, so it would not be the same as the GD. This also opens the door that he did not fully understand the principles he constructed and/or his input was not as great as we are led to believe.

I have often made the comment that that quality of some of the AO papers was a great deal lower than that of the GD. Now I certainly have not been privy to them all but some I have seen are terrible.The sidereal astrology paper and the Kerubic squares Enochian paper.They go against what was written previously. I make a distinction here between the THAM papers and the AO papers. I have seen the original kerubic square paper (by Westcott) and have seen the new and improved Mathers explanation and it simply does not cut it by any stretch of the immagination.

The 1911 paper he did on astrology with Regulus as the starting point for the house division system does no hold water when tested with other system on famous people.

The Hermetic Cross paper (the large one -as the small one is simply an introduction to it) is another which is rambling about one god forms to the next with no punch line.

The Table of shewbread paper is very lightweight and certainly not for the THAM level.

The Seven branch candlestick paper contradicts earlier descriptions of cards in some instances and mixes one system of card development with another (description verses talismatic figures). It looks like Mathers started to explain the cards (Empress) along that line and when it did not fit the others abandoned the template for a descriptive process.

The Metatron-Sandlaphon paper is very basic and why it was put at 8=3 defies belief.

The Mathers 1=10 explanation is a simple narration and has none of the real analysis equal to the Z papers.

No acceptable evidence has been yet presented that Mathers even finished his cards and handed them out to the AO. The 6=5 AO rituals description are extremely vague and like the cards are described in a generic manner and not a specific.

These are just some quick overviews of some of the papers. If people wonder why the GD went in different directions this is a good hint. Frankly I think he missed the boat.

Then on July 6th and 9th Nick Farrell wrote:

Working with the early AO documents is fairly sole destroying if you know what Whare Ra managed to make out of the GD rituals. It is fairly clear that Mathers either didn't know his own system, or care. In my view there is nothing to suggest that Mathers was the genius of the GD... there is more evidence to suggest Westcott...

Certainly anything that Whare Ra was doing in the 1950s make the freemasons look like the boy scouts and the original GD look like a kindergarton. The fact that Mathers was able to ignore the z documents and opt for masonic systems in the AO, probably meant that he didnt really understand what he got either.

This suggestion made by Nick Farrell that Westcott was the real genius behind the G∴D∴ is quite amusing, considering the fact that Farrell claims to be a historian. Well, as a historian he should have considered taking Westcotts own words into account:

About 1886 AFA Woodford gave me Hermetic teaching & old MSS information of G.D. 0=0 to 4=7. Mathers helped me to write those up & Woodman as S.[upreme] M.[agus of the S.R.I.A.] agreed to be 1st Principal of the Isis Temple. We 3 were co-equal by my wish & this lasted until he died Dec. 1891. Then Mathers brought from Paris the 5=6 and said it was the culmination of my G.D. 0=0 to 4=7 and I carried 5=6 on in England until M.[athers] became so eccentric that I resigned in 1897.

I make no claim to the 5=6 Ritual authorship but I do claim right & precedence in the origin of G.D. 0=0 to 4=7 derived from Woodford I started the Isis Temple. I paid Mathers to translate & write out the rituals from my original cypher drafts. I paid for the Isis Warrant, & paid M.[athers] for writing it & I won't have him say he got the G.D. from his ancestor in Pondicherry, as he now pretends.

While I also don’t claim to have seen all of the A∴O∴ papers I however have seen some of the mentioned documents. The Kerubic Square Paper is a highly interesting document which expands on the Godform used in scrying and working with pyramids. Regarding the comments on Seven Branched Candlestick, one wonders if Zalewski actually have read the correct document. The copy I have read doesn’t involve any Tarot Cards at all. It instead presents the formula of sound and colours which Paul Foster Case later used as a springboard for his own system of sound and colour meditation.

The sidereal astrology developed by Mathers is a pioneering work and presents a more accurate way of erecting a horoscope taking the precession of the Equinoxes into account. It should be mastered by any Rosicrucian Theurgist in my opinion. It doesn’t at all contradict earlier material as allusions of counting the starting point of the Zodiac from Star Regulus in 0° Leo already were existent in the Astronomic Tarot paper (Ritual “O”), written by Mathers and being part of the early Z.A.M. material. Let me again quote Brodie-Innes speaking of Mathers scholarship:

His astrological knowledge was exceptional, as is abundantly proved by many horoscopes that have passed through my hands, in which the accuracy of his judgment as evidenced by events was convincing.

In the Rosicrucian Order of the A∴O∴ of today, the teachings makes use of both systems, using the tropical zodiac for personal natal horoscopes and the sidereal for synchronization of ritual and talismanic work. Zalewski obviously has no understanding of these matters.

Regarding the “Z” material being optional this – never before heard of – information is not substantiated by any means and doesn’t hold water, especially considering that Mathers is accredited as the author. The curriculum was mandatory. Some material in Z.A.M. and Th.A.M. were later elevated into higher sub-grades, i.e. some re-arrangements were made over the years, but noting was removed from the curriculum.

Regarding the changes in rituals, they were actually of a minor nature. Basically the Neophyte Ritual did go through some changes, or rather some material were added which complemented the original version; almost nothing was removed from the original G∴D∴ version. Waite’s comment comes into mind: “Temple Consecration ritual of DDCF includes obeisance to Isis.” Waites statement is of course a half-truth. All this points to the fact that Zalewski has not seen the actual ritual papers of the AO. For me personally, this last fact is satisfying considering Zalewski’s attitudes on secrecy.

The reason for the change which actually were made of course was motivated by preservation of the integrity of the egregore. Remember that the Neophyte Ritual (or at least portions of it) was public domain after the Horos scandal and particularily after Crowleys breach of secrecy. It had to be somewhat altered to preserve the egregore of the new A∴O∴ Order. Again, we cannot expect Pat Zalewski to understand the esoteric principles of secrecy, considering his attitudes towards this subject.

About the quality of the A∴O∴ papers being much worse than that of the original G∴D∴, again implicating that Westcott was the true genius behind the R.R. et A.C., this is just plain wrong. Westcott wasn’t near the genius of Mathers by any stretch of the imagination. Just compare Westcott’s “Book H.” with Mathers’ The Book of the Concourse of the Forces. Book H. is very muddled compared to the direct and consistent teachings in Mathers Enochian papers.

Regarding the Tarot cards. They were already finished and handed out to Adepts prior to the 1900 schism; Mathers simply used these, the existing version.

Zalewski’s last paragraph betrays his real motives and personal bias. He tries to discredit the A∴O∴ lineage and elevate the Stella Matutina tradition of Whare Ra (of which he is a self-proclaimed representative) as the foremost representation of the Golden Dawn, which is evidenced by the comments made by Farrell.

And then we have to address the character assassination attempts which reoccur with regular intervals. First is the allegation of Mathers using the Golden Dawn as his own private enterprise, as proposed by Nick Farrell on July3rd and 6th:

Anyway, Berridges' temple didn't have a 6=5 or a 7=4 ritual. It seems these were obtained by writing a cheque to Mathers... they might have had one much later...

Both Pat and I know that the AO rituals existed, however I am not convinced they were performed. Certainly this is the case with the Berridge Temple which didnt have them and the only evidence about them seems to indicate the grades were given out on the payment of a cheque to Mathers with no ritual required.

Nick Farrell based his theory about the selling of grades interpreting certain vague lines in Waite’s commentaries on the R.R. et A.C. proceedings:

Brasch into Resurgam temple via Mrs. De Bashe some 2 years ago. Both resigned. Founded own Temple after visit by DDCF− came to nothing, so rejoined old Temple B. as Sub−Cancellarius, she as Cancellarius. Wardends of Temple are: Imperator − resurgam; Praemonstrator − Sub Spe; Cancellarius − Soror Mystica. They ahey have renewed many properties as stuff at Cavendish Rooms is verminous. They had 6=5 grade by letter, asked by Resurgam to send £5.5.0 to DDCF; they refused and had insulting letters from DDCF so resigned once more. Prior to this Dr. Parrish resigned he had held 2nd order meetings in a Flat. No 2nd order meetings for 2½ years so Braach hasn't had 5=6. Two medals for 6=5 but no ritual. If neophyte pays 3gns. then 2gns. goes to DDCF.

These accusations actually has its origins in a letter from Paul Foster Case to Israel Regardie were he says:

V.N.R. [Moina Mathers], supposedly 7=4 in fact, then began to display extraordinary misunderstanding of the American situation. She encouraged a Frater in Chicago to initiate anybody possessed of $ 10 (by mail), and soon the country was flooded with Neophytes who had never seen the inside of a Temple.

On the following day Tony Fuller addressed these issues:

I would be interested to know what evidence anyone has seen regarding the allegation that Mathers and Moina charged money for Grades (particularly the higher Grades) other than Regardie's comment. It should be noted that Regardie's information came entirely from Paul Foster Case. Case had a particular axe to grind and his information is often very unreliable. Moreover, even if some maladministration was occurring in the US, this could not necessrily be attributed to Moina Mathers (Mathers himself was dead by this stage). I have never seen any evidence of this occurring in the UK. The information regarding the 6=5 an 7=4 rituals is simply wrong. Both these rituals were extant by 1907 and probably earlier. Similarly, there is absolutely no evidence that Mathers and wife were 'more' interested in the Isis mysteries other than the fact that they were interested in them. Is there even an iota of evidence that they were neglecting the Order in favour of the Isis Mysteries other than that we know they performed the latter? I think not. It is always very dangerous to argue from an absence of information particularly when one is dealing with a secret organisation where people actually honoured their obligations.

So from a historical point of view, there exists no actual evidence to support Case’s and Waite’s written testemonies, both having an ax to grind towards Mathers and the A∴O∴. But on the other hand we connot say that some examples of maladministration didn’t occur, especially after the death of MacGregor Mathers. But even if the mysterious couple referred to in Waite’s testemony, of which he gives three different spellings (Brasch, Braach or Bashe; or perhaps it constitutes a Freudian “slip”, i.e. bashing), gave a correct account of the proceedings, how should we interpret a vauge line like “They had 6=5 grade by letter, asked by Resurgam to send £5.5.0 to DDCF”? It can either be interpreted (as Farrell has done) as being given a grade just by paying a check, or it can mean that they received the full Ritual to be used for personal study, by paying Mathers the sum of money (for expences in developing and writing the document and for postal services). It was common practice in the old Isis-Urania Temple to pay a certain sum of money for documents and I have seen a list of documents including fees in Westcott’s own handwriting. Nothing extraordinary at all; the high cost of money being motivated by the level of arcana.

All we can do, considering the existing information, is to speculate. The Neophyte fee also isn’t anything out of the ordinary. In the early days of the G∴D∴ people had to pay fees for membership and advancement. The central administration of the A∴O∴ being in Paris, it’s only natural to send the required sum to Mathers (who was managing the Order togheter with his wife full time). So there is no hard evidence against MacGregor Mathers in this matter.

Then there is the issue of the die hard rumour of Mathers framing Westcott, planting order documents which eventually found their way to Westcotts employers. These revelations forced Westcott to resign from the Order in 1897, leaving Mathers in sole authority. Some regard the fact that Mathers revealed the truth about the Sprengle letters to Florence Farr as “evidence” of him as the real architect of Westcott’s resignation.

Tony Fuller on August 10, 2008, answered this accusation in the following words on this otherwise excellent blog:

This is a suggestion that has been floated every now and then but I find no evidence at all for it. A little reflection on the importance of the Order to Mathers would indicate that such an action would be anathema to him. I suggest the more likely source lay within the Masonic fraternity which then, as indeed now, is often a battleground of petty squabbles and jealousies. Whether or not paranoid, Mathers was deeply upset Florence Farr had released his letter regarding the forgery. Moreover, it is not particularly clear that he was trying to oust Westcott so much as to elicit her support against his belief that Westcott was undermining him. Certainly Mathers was extremely unusual and an eccentric, but not noticeably more so than many of the other major figures in the GD. Given the fact that he wrote all the rituals (from a very skeletal basis in the Ciphers), produced the 5=6 sui generis, and a vast bulk of the instructional papers, I would have thought it a rather risky base on which to suggest he may be 'mad'. Risky, that is, if oneself professes to admire and follow the very same system he was largely reponsible for creating.

One usually forgets that Mathers was one of the early feminists on the occult scene (going against the masonic flow) and having a deep respect for the integrity of the Orders individual members (as can be seen from the Dr. Berrige vs. Annie Hornimal issue).

Agreed, he was eccentric, considering the times in which he worked. They all were strong and colourful personalities, Mathers, Waite, Fortune, Case, et al. They were Magicians for God’s sakes!

Obviously he had concerns about Westcott trying to seize control over G∴D∴ in Britain (and perhaps he was justified in doing this), that’s why he sent the letter to Florance Farr (not the R.R. et A.C.) in the first place. She was the chief of Isis-Urania Temple at the time. But, as Fuller have pointed out, to risk the reputation of the Order, which he genuinely loved, just to eliminate his main rival is taking things a little bit to far in my opinion.

Sure, he was a stern person in matters of authority, but he was right in doing this considering he was the sole representative of the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order, not Westcott. This being the main reason in sending the letter to Farr, setting all matters straight.

I however agree with the critics that taking on Aleister Crowley as a confidant was a very bad call, trusting him solely on common racial ancestry. Mathers Celtic temperament certainly added to the makeup of his flamboyant personality. Let me end this apology with the famous words of Brodie-Innes:

Dear, impulsive, hot-headed, warm-hearted Highlander, he had all the defects and the qualities of his race; misunderstood, reviled; and revered, brave and loyal to the last, bearing no malice to any, scarcely even resenting the many baseless falsehoods freely circulated about him.