Traditional Golden Dawn initiation and its relation to Freemasonry and Distance Initiation
by GH Frater S.'.R.'.
There is a common misconceptions being spread, even amongst occultists, that academic historical research somehow are able to present the facts or truths about esoteric lineage, currents and transmission. Personally I encourage academic research into this field, and would like to see more of it, but at the same time one has to acknowledge its limits. Western esotericism is a very concealed business for obvious reasons. It has not become such an open matter until the early 20th Century, but even this openness and contemporary research cannot bring everything into public light. Obviously the most guarded secrets concerning these matters are concealed for all but the initiates, and oftentimes of very high grades.
The turn of the millennium has seen a new phenomenon of the occultist doing historical research meeting academic criteria. This phenomenon is not at all new in Freemasonry, whose most ardent historical researchers have been Freemasons, mostly because of Freemasonic libraries often being off limits for non-initiates. Academic research into the history of the Golden Dawn has also mainly been reserved to Freemasonic authors, because of its ties with so called “fringe masonry”, most prominently Ellic Howe who wrote the classic The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923, and his successor R.A. Gilbert. The latter is also a former member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia or S.R.I.A. (which can be regarded as a Masonic research lodge into the roots of Rosicrucianism).
These two authors has laid down the foundation for the later “liberal” stance amongst Golden Dawn Adepts in regards to the historical roots and the question of lineage, i.e. that it was solely concocted by W.W. Westcott and S.L. MacGregor Mathers. This liberal faction has been further advocated by Golden Dawn Adepts, with historical ambitions, like Pat Zalewski and lately Nick Farrell.
The other stream of Golden Dawn occultists with historical leanings has met quite some opposition from the “liberal camp” as not meeting the rigid academic criteria for research. The most noteworthy Golden Dawn Adept who started this “traditionalist” stance was in fact Ithell Colquhoun, who wrote the classic The Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn. Contrary to academic researchers as Ellic Howe and R.A. Gilbert, Colquhoun was an integrated part of the living tradition of the Golden Dawn and met several prominent Adepts of the 20th Century, amongst them Edward John Langford Garstin, a senior Adept of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, who also were her cousin. She also knew former Golden Dawn Adepts, as for example Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie. She had the unique opportunity to know the word of mouth teachings of the Golden Dawn tradition, as regards its historical roots and lineage.
Actually it was Israel Regardie who first came out with a book giving an account of the rumours and oral tradition of Golden Dawn history, called My Rosicrucian Adventure, which came out one year before he started to published the corpus of the Golden Dawn in 1937. When New Falcon Publications printed a new and expanded edition of it, renamed as What You Should Know About The Golden Dawn, they appended Suster's Answer to Howe, by Gerald Suster. Suster was one of the very first to make the connection between the Golden Dawn and the Frankfurt-am-Main Freemasonic Jewish Lodge of Chabarath Zereh Boqer Aour (L’Aurore Naissante) and tying Kenneth MacKenzie as a possible link between the continent and Britain and the plausible author of the Cypher Mss. It is a well known fact that Israel Regardie himself was very displeased by Howe's presentation of the historical roots of the Golden Dawn; the last edition of his own historical account tried to remedy this fact. Hence, Regardie himself cannot be described as a liberal, even though he did breach his sacred vow.
Other contemporary authors of the traditionalist camp are Jean-Pascal Ruggiu, Dr. Robert Word and Anthony Flemming (aka Tony Fuller). This camp advocates the presumption that the Golden Dawn has earlier historical roots and lineage that goes further beyond either Westcott or Mathers. This research has found very interesting links to 18th Century Germany and the Gold und Rosenkreutz Orden and Asiatic Brethren, and also strong and convincing ties to the Frankist-Sabbatheian Qabalah of Poland. The traditionalists refute the liberal opinion that the Golden Dawn tradition just fell down from the sky and was invented through scholarly library research of Westcott and Mathers, who felt they had to take things further than the S.R.I.A. and create an western alternative to Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society. The traditionalist stance also presupposes that Kenneth MacKenzie in fact was the important link between the German rosicrucians and The Golden Dawn, between the general reformations of 1777 and 1888.
Personally, while I do belong to the traditionalist camp, I also hail any academic research in this field. But we cannot put any hope into this field as esoteric libraries are even more difficult to penetrate for any researcher other than the initiate himself, who happens to be bound by oaths of secrecy.
The sad thing about any historical research made by Golden Dawn Adepts today, regardless of camp, is that this research oftentimes are highly contaminated by political agendas because of the inflamed situation within the Golden Dawn community today, as many of these people are either leaders of Golden Dawn orders or belong to the higher echelons of one of these orders, and therefore are bound by loyalty to their leaders. Often people with purely political agendas pose as serious academic researchers to further the stance of the order that they belong to and vigorously defend. As an example, the planned publication of the initiation rituals of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega in Nick Farrell's upcoming King over the Water – the history and rites of Mathers' AO, mixed with the personal and biased opinions of the author about MacGregor Mathers' person, is in my opinion such an attempt to undermine the current manifestation of that Order.
Another such and recent example is the so-called research of Ian Cowburn, who attempts to conceal his order affiliation, but serves as moderator for the forum of a well-known, modern Regardie Golden Dawn group. I take this as an example as yours truly has been falsely associated with another blog, just by proxy, by Mr. Cowburn. Here is what Mr. Cowburn wrote yesterday on the Robert Zink forum, trying to refute the MacKenzie Rosicrucian connection:
Kenneth Mackenzie was born in 1833 and died in 1886, leaving his papers in the hands of his widow where Westcott putatively got his hands on the Cypher MS. For Mackenzie to have been initiated by a Count Apponyi in Vienna, he would have had to have been at least in his early twenties, which gives us a starting point of around 1853.
Now, what are we to suppose about a person claiming academic rigidity in historical research who cannot even get such facts straight, mixing up his sources in this manner? He has obviously mixed up that English speaking blog (which definitely wasn't created by me) with the one you are reading right now, which mainly consist of Swedish entries.
Mr. Cowburn has for years been spreading rumours and false allegations about the order that I represent in Scandinavia, which he again exemplify in the following quotation:
Long ago it was the enigmatic "FAR+C" which was cited as the hidden root of this wrangle, until it was sufficiently widely demonstrated that the FAR+C business was entirely dreamed up by Roger Caron, a French mythomane in the 50s. So this "Apponyi" business took its place.
The Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega has never claimed any Golden Dawn descendance or lineage whatsoever from the Freres aines de la Rose-Croix. It has claimed esoteric transmission from it, which is of high interest and import for anyone interested in true alchemy, as it does with the Gold und Rosenkreutz and Asiatic Brethren, but like with these German orders it has never ever claimed initiatic or other lineage, directly or indirectly, from F.A.R+C. Obviously, people from the liberal faction like Mr. Cowburn cannot see the difference between esoteric transmission and lineage. Cowburn even doesn’t get the spelling right of the latest Imperator of the F.A.R+C. – Roger Caro.
Regarding F.A.R+C., and regardless of its high significance as an operative tradition, it is probably true that the historical claims of the French Freres, which claims Templar origin dating from 1317 and listing luminaries such as Eliphas Levi, W.W. Westcott, S.L. MacGregor Mathers and Rudolf Steiner as its Grand Masters, constitutes somewhat of a romantic myth. But on the other hand I highly question the supposition that it was all “dreamed up” by Roger Caro. Anyone who has had first hand experience of the “Wet Way” of the Red Dragon cannot believe it all originated in the mind of one person during the 1950's, i.e. Roger Caro a.k.a. Kamala Jnana; it must have an older origin. This is also the view of the prominent Portuguese Alchemist Rubellus Petrinus. Instead of listening to Mr. Cowburn why not read the words about this subject of someone actually initiatied into the tradition of F.A.R+C.? I believe the difference of perspective between these two gentlemen most amply illustrates my point of view and what this essay is all about.
Now I don’t refute the fact that historians like Nick Farrell and Ian Cowburn are able to do objective and enlightening research, as they have in the past, letting go of political and loyalty bias. But let us examine the method of choice of Mr. Cowburn in his research into this particular subject about the MacKenzie-Apponyi connection:
We even find other sources echoing this assertion, adding the crucial forename of the Apponyi concerned : http://homeopathy.wildfalcon.com
It being fairly obvious that Albert cannot be the Apponyi of MacKenzie, Mr. Cowburn now turns his attention toward Albert's father.
The father, George, was born in 1808 and died at a ripe old age in 1899. Surely a better "candidate" for our initiator....
Or so according to the “academic” research of Ian Cowburn. What it amounts to is solely using sources from the internet, even the notoriously inaccurate Wikipedia. Pehaps it’s o.k. to use these kind of sources for a layman like yours truly, who doesn’t have any fantasies about being a serious historian, but for a historian with academic pretentions like Mr. Cowburn?
But to be honest, the information gathered by Mr. Cowburn through his computer, amounts to quite interesting information and is why I have quoted it in full here. But some of the conclusions made by him are quite naive, like the one saying “Was George a Rosicrucian? A quick google search reveals nothing”. Well, people in these days took the vows of secrecy by the letter, contrary to many initiates today. In those days there wasn’t any traditionalist and liberal camps amongst the initiates; the latter can only occur in our laissez faire age of modernity.
Another point of contention is the opinion that “no contemporary Austrian or German 'Rosicrucian' group of which MacKenzie might have been a member could be identified”. Well according to some sources the Lodge L’Aurore Naissante was still active in the 1850's, and it is widely asserted that this very lodge had strong ties with the 'rosicrucian' society called Asiatic Brethren or Fratres Lucis (or in full Brotherhood of St. John the Evangelist from Asia in Europe).
Samuel Robinson (Frater Maui) recently stated the following regarding the L'Aurore Naissante, which probably goes against the agendas of many so called Golden Dawn scholars and historians, in response to the notion that this Lodge in 1807 became the refuge for many of its Jewish brethren when the Order of the Asiatic Brethren fell into abeyance:
For what's its worth this lodge is still active here in Germany, I found them a few months ago. Somebody in the SRIA also contacted them and said it has become normal masonry, however such is not the case, all the Nascent Dawn papers are circulated for study in a hermetic kabalistic masonic lodge here in Frankfurt.To which Dr. Robert Word gave his confirming response:
A number of years ago a prominant member of AMORC, Irwin Wattermeyer (actually a member of the german speaking Grand Lodge of AMORC) traveled to Germany, and obtained initiation into the same Nascent Dawn kabbalistic masonic lodge in Frankfurt, gaining access to the arcane papers that you refer to. Wattermeyer resided in the S.F. Bay Area and was involved in many arcane societies of this type, both foreign and domestic.Contrary to the liberal stance the traditionalists don’t attempt to reduce the importance of the Golden Dawn tradition. Contrary to the liberals, it tries to put the Golden Dawn on the map of continental Rosicrucianism. Liberal reductionalist tendencies of this kind has the political agenda of giving free reign to liberal leaders of the Golden Dawn to do whatever they please with our beloved tradition, not bound by any historical or traditional hallmarks; if the original founders of the Golden Dawn could dream up our tradition, then the current reinagurators surely can do the same – and in fact do make up entirely new meanings to even traditional concepts like initiation and lineage.
Contrary to this, an traditionalist attitude toward Rosicrucianism in general and Golden Dawn in particular, nurtures a deep respect towards our Tradition, considering its roots and taking new directions into the future knowing where one comes from. This can be compared to the attitude of any healthy person; being conscious of one’s personal history gives meaning and purpose to the one’s behaviour today, and also gives identity and integrity, liberates energy or force in leading a conscious and mature life as projected into the future.
And now I would like to end this essay with a somewhat amended quotatation from Tony Fuller in response to Ian Cowburns address as quoted above:
There is an awkward fact which should not be overlooked. Westcott stated repeatedly that he received the Cipher Mss. ("old MSS information of GD 0=0 to 4=7") from the Rev. A.F.A. Woodford, and not from MacKenzie. Indeed, as late as April 1912 he stated this clearly in a letter to Gardner. Is it really plausible that he lied repeatedly over this? Certainly Mathers never suggested otherwise and Waite comments that Westcott was a person of integrity, whose word he would not doubt. Woodford and MacKenzie were known to each other, of course, and apparently both students of [Fredrick] Hockley [a student of the famous alchemist Sigismund Backstrom which evidently had some influence on the Golden Dawn and R.R. et A.C.], who has also been cited as a possible source.This is very interesting information which points to the eventuality that rituals were probably made from different sources, perhaps even in part written by others than either Mathers or Westcott. This information actually gives credence to the notion that there existed Rosicrucian societies predating the Isis-Urania No. 3 Temple, i.e. Hermanubis No. 2, etc.
Regarding Woodford as the source of the Cypher Mss., Ellic Howe already pointed this out in his The Magicians of the Golden Dawn (and which I also find plausible) that the Cypher Mss. could have found their way into Westcotts hands through the testament of Woodford. But this doesn't refute the proposition that the Mss. were in fact written by MacKenzie and later fell into the hands of Woodford after the death of the former. Hockley, Woodford and MacKenzie were all buddies, and probably were behind the enigmatic Hermanubis Temple Nr. 2. or The Society of Eight (also referred to as Fratres Lucis).
The chronicler S.R.