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Oliver St. John is the author of fifteen books covering Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, the Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of the Thelemic Magical Collegium, Ordo Astri, and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Nu Golden Dawn: Night Magick vs Light Magick

The post-truth age is a chilling but unavoidable truth.[1] At least, it is a truth so long as we can no longer discern the true from the false, good from evil. While truth cannot be absolutely true, true discernment is made in the heart and not the reasoning mind alone. This is the seat of what is called the True Will or Thelema.

Deconstructionism was used as a method in the arts long before it was recognised as driving political debate (so-called). Kenneth Grant—perhaps first of the post-modern occultists—laid a trail so littered with ‘blinds’ that even the most perceptive individuals have difficulty deciphering the way. Yet when he neared the end of his time—and foresaw the end of ours—he was unequivocal so far as stating that Initiates should prepare for the incoming wave of Qliphoth. To explain this in the terms coined by Grant: rends in the subtle fabric that once protected the planet are now admitting overwhelming incursions from Outside. The uninitiated have no defence against the resultant atavistic resurgence and succumb to obsession in their legions. Grant’s instructions for the needful preparations are nonetheless scattered about the Typhonian Trilogies in a way that makes them difficult to find and identify.[2]

The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites: Golden Dawn Altar or Material Basis

It is our stated aim to redefine the operation of the Magick of Light for the New Aeon. The term, “Magick of Light”, owes to the Golden Dawn tradition established by Samuel Liddell MacGregor and Moïna Mathers, Wyn Westcott, William Woodman, Florence Farr and company. The deconstruction of that legacy was carefully prepared and set in motion by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones. It could be said that half a century later Kenneth Grant finished off completely the job they started. Or did he simply weave a seductively alluring tapestry, a fantastic veil to hide the real secret of the Golden Dawn from the profane—thus doing the bidding of the Secret Chiefs in a way more subtle than the darkly devious devices of his own imagining?

It was Kenneth Grant that cleverly noticed the Golden Dawn expression of the reification of the Magick of Light as spelling “The Great L.I.E.” (Light in Extension). This is an Eastern and indeed dualistic philosophical view to take, though in reality not much different from that of Aleister Crowley who increasingly resorted to the Yi-King over the Tarot (which he was never good at by his own admission) and the Taoist way over that of the Hermetic. Crowley littered his work with paradoxical assertions and negations, as did Kenneth Grant, albeit in a very different style.

The dualistic denial of matter and proclamation of spiritual supremacy is nothing new; it was included in the knowledge of the syncretic Golden Dawn tradition. The use of the Chaldean Oracles, attributed to the Persian sage Zoroaster, provides a fine example. The Upanishads are full of it. Strangely enough, everyone seems to be more or less in agreement that the way of the West differs from that of the East in so far as matter is not to be denied but transformed. The extraordinarily lurid works of Kenneth Grant are as syncretic as those of any Golden Dawn. After all, he was not urging us to become Hindus or Buddhists. The “Typhonian tradition” is usually taken to refer not to an ancient Egyptian pre-dynastic cult but to the legacy of Kenneth Grant’s writings. The said writing embraces all manner of expressions, from an inverted view of the Golden Dawn, Grant’s extended use of Gematria, which he called “Creative Qabalah”, and on to Zen, Taoism, witchcraft, voodoo, demonology and even ufology.

The redoubtable Scientific Illuminism of Aleister Crowley is austere in comparison with the amorphous Nightside of Grant, but it continued the Golden Dawn tradition—after a fashion at least—in the declared aim of universalism. The universalism of the syncretic Golden Dawn was established at least a decade before a young Aleister Crowley was introduced to the household.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Crowley and other first wave Golden Dawn dissidents discarded elements of the tradition that were valuable and magically vital. For example, the early Golden Dawn temples had equal rights and privileges for women that meant far more than paying mere lip service to a lofty ideal. When Mathers moved base from London to Paris he appointed Florence Farr as head. The respect afforded the women of the Golden Dawn is less surprising when we consider that the primary magical contact behind MacGregor and Moïna Mathers was the Egyptian goddess Isis. The first Golden Dawn temple in London was therefore named Isis-Urania. Crowley, on the other hand, revered women only when poeticising, and was otherwise consistent in asserting male supremacy in all things—an attitude that has continued in his legacy even to the present times.[3]

Nu Golden Dawn

While Grant proposed a way (if you can see it) that is essentially Against the Light, he nonetheless insisted, in his earlier writings at least, that one must attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel before bravely immersing oneself in the demon worlds of the Qliphoth.[4] And here is a strange thing to relate in view of the polemic against luminosity: the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is a Hermetic and Theurgic magical operation. The irony of Kenneth Grant’s Tunnels of Set is that they lead nowhere; the longer one stays in the cloying labyrinth the further one is from the fragrance of the mystic rose. The Holy Guardian Angel, a divine messenger that conveys direct mystical experience to the soul, is very much part of the Rosicrucian scheme of things. That means working the grades of the Golden Dawn as far as Tiphereth, the central solar radiance of the whole Tree of Life. At the foot of the Tree, coiled about the Kingdom of Malkuth, Thanatos and Eros weave the Ring-Pass-Not that mockingly bars all ways to the canopied couch of Logos and Agape.

The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation is due for release this Easter tide. Details about the book are posted on the Ordo Astri website and at Tantrika Books. There is also a discursive commentary on this in our upcoming Temple of Babalon podcast, Episode 17.


Notes

[1] Post-truth is where personal opinion and agenda is made to obscure or simply deny obvious facts. It is usually descriptive of faux political debate, but has wide application.

[2] Kenneth Grant refers to a certain “Sign of Protection”. This is described in The Ninth Arch, Appendices I (Starfire Publishing).

[3] One only has to read Aleister Crowley’s The Law is for All to understand where he stood regarding the place of women. Ref: The Law is For All, by Aleister Crowley, New Falcon Publications 1991; pp. 305–12 and 315–6.

[4] Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative is the title of a book by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 2016).

 © Oliver St. John 2017