Lineage in Spiritual Traditions - East and West
The concept of lineage is found not only in Western esoteric orders, but also in various spiritual traditions of the East, as in Christianity and Freemasonry in the West. Lineage, much like trademarks, may serve to prevent public confusion about a given spiritual tradition. Lineage may also be a formal means of mutual recognition, as in the case of Freemasonry, which uses charters and systems of mutual recognition between Grand lodges to establish 'regularity,' or finally, it may carry with it a spiritual transmission or realization, as in the case of Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism.
Zen Buddhism, for example, maintains records of their historical teachers who, according to the traditional history of that school, have passed the Dharma from generation to generation in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha. Dharma transmission is the formal confirmation by a master of Zen or Chan Buddhism of a student's awakening. This one-to-one transmission is said to trace back over 2,500 years to Gautama Buddha when he gave dharma transmission to his disciple Mahakasyapa, who is regarded as the first patriarch of Zen in India.
In Christianity, the doctrine of Apostolic Succession maintains that the Christian Church today is the spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ, composed of the Apostles. In pre-Protestant Reformation Churches, Apostolic Succession is claimed as having been passed through unbroken lines of bishops beginning with the original Apostles.
In Western esotericism, numerous orders use lineage as a means of ensuring a direct transmission of spiritual principles and energies. Lineage, like trademarks, is also a basic form of protection for the public, that what members find is actually what they associate with the name or the spiritual tradition. Martinist orders, for examples all claim lineage deriving from Louis-Claude de St. Martin.
Lineage and the Golden Dawn
There are a bewildering number of groups on the Internet calling themselves Golden Dawn today that have no legitimate connection with the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn - founded in Britain in 1888. One such group, trying to disguise its recent founding by a New Age enterpreneur, published a sensational article on its website entitled, "The Shocking Truth About Lineage!" that deceptively downplays and misrepresents the essential role that lineage plays - not only in the Golden Dawn and its Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages - but in all legitimate initiatic spiritual traditions around the world.
There is certainly nothing wrong with New Age teachings nor even New Age Golden Dawn groups, if promoters would at least be honest about it! But instead, they too often try to trick you with deceptive marketing slogans, calling themselves things like "Guardians of the True Golden Dawn Mysteries"...
...while in the same breath throwing fundamental, traditional Golden Dawn teachings and practices right out the window! - Even things as important as real, traditional Golden Dawn initiation physically present in real Golden Dawn temples.
In place of such traditional Golden Dawn practices, these New Age promoters sell you dubious, New Age subsitutes like "Astral" (long distance) or "Self" initiation.
For example, one New Age Golden Dawn promoter claims that Golden Dawn founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers invented both "Astral Initiation" and the "Law of Attraction." There is, of course, no evidence whatsoever to back up such absurd claims. If any real evidence existed at all, New Age Golden Dawn advocates would have published it long ago.
Such claims can be amusing such as claiming that the Emerald Tablet of Hermes was invented in Atlantis, but in the case of Astral Initiation, it is designed to target your wallet. When a group is willing to fabricate false teachings to get your money, it begs the question the integrity of their "oral" traditions.
Traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation is one of the most powerful tools for spiritual development of the entire Golden Dawn system. The bad news is that - unfortunately for people living in remote areas, there simply is no short cut nor satisfactory substitute for travelling to a real temple.
But - if you really want to believe New Age promoters can make you a "full Golden Dawn initiate" - from the comfort of your own living room - while you lay on your couch on the other end of the world...
...they will be more than happy to take your money!
One function of lineage thus is indeed to protect you - to give you a means of assurance that what you will find in a Golden Dawn order is actually what you would expect from the Golden Dawn tradition. In today's confusing and misleading internet environment, Hermetic, Rosicrucian, and Golden Dawn lineages serve to guarantee you quality and traditional practices more than ever.
But this is not the most important aspect of lineage.
More Truth Revealed
Here is what New Age GD promoters are terrified you will learn:
True spiritual lineages convey with them a set of teachings, techniques, and spiritual energies that are not generally available to the public. Hermetic, Rosicrucian, and Golden Dawn spiritual lineages guarantee you access to unpublished aspects of these traditions that have been reserved exclusively for initiates for Millennia. This is certainly the case with our order - where traditional Golden Dawn, Hermetic and Rosicrucian initiatic lineages convey advanced magical and alchemical practices for spiritual development New Age orders can only dream of!
One order today remains that is a direct lineal descendent of the original H.O.G.D. (founded in Britain in 1888). This group was originally called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888. S.L. MacGregor Mathers changed the name to the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega already in 1906, as imitators and imposters were already beginning to use the Golden Dawn name. The HOGD, Mathers kept as only the outer order of the Alpha et Omega.
Today, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega possesses numerous spiritual lineages, Hermetic, Rosicrucian, and Golden Dawn in origin. Their Hermetic lineage arose in Egypt, was carried to Europe with the Greek and Roman empires, and has been passed down from Hermetic master to disciple for Millennia in an unbroken chain of initiates
These substantial Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages were transmitted to the order by a secret Continental European order of Hermetic alchemists, referred to by Golden Dawn founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers as the "Secret Chiefs" (Geheime Oberen). This is the true "source of origin" of all of the initiation rituals, teachings, and spiritual practices of all of the grades comprising all three orders set forth in the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages of their First Order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) were received by famous Freemason, Kenneth MacKenzie, in 1850. The lineages of their Second Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aurea Crucis (R.R. et A.C.), were received by S.L. MacGregor Mathers in 1891. The lineages of their Third Order, which complete the entire system, were received in Paris by Jean-Pascal Ruggiu and David Griffin in 2002.
They additionally hold multiple lines of auxiliary lineage from Golden Dawn derviative orders, which include but are not limited to R.W. Felkin's Stella Matutina, S.L. MacGregor Mather's Alpha et Omega, A.E. Waite's Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, G.W. MacGregor Reid's Ancient Druid Order, Madeline Montalban's Order of the Morning Star (Ordo Stella Matutina), and Countess Tamara Bourkoun's Order of the Pyramid and the Sphinx as transmitted by the great British Adept, Desmond Bourke, Countess Tamara Bourkoun, and Marquis Nicholas Tereschenko.
They also hold a vast array of supplemental Rosicrucian lineages and/or esoteric transmissions which include the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order (Fraternitas Aureae et Rosae Crucis), the Order of the Asiatic Brethren (Fratres Lucis), the Societas Rosicruciana of Backstrom, Les Frères Ainées de la Rose+Croix (F.A.R.+C., The Elder Brothers of the Rose+Cross), the Rose Croix d'Orient (Rose Cross of Egypt) and the Reaux Croix (Elus Cohen).