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Author Topic: The Golden Dawn  (Read 1217 times)

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Satyr

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The Golden Dawn
« on: September 09, 2019, 01:00:21 AM »
I thought we could use a catch-all thread for questions about the Golden Dawn, and a place to discuss related issues that fall outside the scope of other threads.

As anyone who has glanced at Regardie's The Golden Dawn knows, there is an appalling amount of material. I don't pretend to have a solid grasp on all of it myself, but I am interested in discussing what I know and what I find interesting. Perhaps I am not alone.

For the early history of the order, I am very fond of the contentious Howe's indispensable volume, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923 (Samuel Weiser: New York, New York, 1978). Additionally, I have and have read R A Gilbert's, The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (The Aquarian Press: Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1983), but do not find it as informative or persuasive.

Along with Regardie's brick (I will be using the 6th edition. Llewellyn: 2002), I also have The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (Falcon Press: Phoenix, Arizona, 1984). It includes much of the usual material with some interesting additions. Despite its cheesy title, and even cheesier author, Poke Runyon's Secrets of the Golden Dawn Cypher Manuscript (The Church of the Hermetic Sciences: Silverado, California, 2000) is useful in understanding how a core of occult knowledge and ritual outlines were developed into the working system we find in Regardie.

I have not seen the new editions of Regardie by Michael Greer and Chic and Tabby Cicero. If anyone has, and thinks the changes significant, feel free to update us on your finds.

As anyone who read my recent post might assume, right now I am interested in the Golden Dawn's attributions of the planets to the so-called double letters of the Hebrew abjad: בגד כפרת, or, BGD KPRTh. Investigating that question leads us immediately to one of the seminal works of the Western magical tradition: the Sefer Yetzirah. To get some idea of how we arrived at the many surviving variations of this famous text, I am currently setting aside Aryeh Kaplan (Sepher Yetzirah: The Book of Creation. Samuel Weiser: York Beach, Maine, 1990), and turning to A Peter Hayman's, Sefer Yeṣira: Edition, Translation and Text-Critical Commentary (Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, Germany, 2004).

The oldest manuscripts of the “Long Recension” of the Sepher Yetzirah [See for example the tenth-century manuscript in the Vatican Library (Cat Assemani) 299(8), fols 66a-71b, reproduced and translated in Hayman] attribute these seven Hebrew letters to the planets in the ascending order of how fast the planets appear to move relative to the background of the fixed stars (Hayman, pp 136-137):

Quote
Beth, ב: Saturn.
Gimel, ג: Jupiter.
Dalet, ד: Mars.
Kaf, כ: Sol.
Pe, פ: Venus.
Resh, ר: Mercury.
Taw, ת: Luna.

This is not what we find in the Golden Dawn material (compare with the “Fourth Knowledge Lecture” in Regardie 2002, p 71), or its derivatives (for example, 777, Table I, Columns CLXXV and CLXXVII):

Quote
Beth, ב: Mercury.
Gimel, ג: Luna.
Dalet, ד: Venus.
Kaf, כ: Jupiter.
Pe, פ: Mars.
Resh, ר: Sol.
Taw, ת: Saturn.

To the best of my knowledge, this particular arrangement first appears in the Golden Dawn “Cypher Manuscript” (Runyon, pp 127-128, 133-134, and 151). Surprisingly, these are not the same attributions that William Wynn Westcott, one of the creators of the Golden Dawn, published in his 1887 edition of the Sepher Yetzirah (Chapter 4):

Quote
Beth, ב: Luna.
Gimel, ג: Mars.
Dalet, ד: Sol.
Kaf, כ: Venus.
Pe, פ: Mercury.
Resh, ר: Saturn.
Taw, ת: Jupiter.

That these also do not agree with the attributions from the 10th century Sepher Yetzirah, above, is not terribly surprising, given that Westcott appears to have worked primarily from Latin translations dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Curiously, in his 3rd edition (1911), Westcott mentions in passing that the French translator Mayer Lambert (Commentaire sur le Livre de la Création par Saadia. Paris: 1891) gives:

Quote
“Beth to Saturn and the Hebrew Sabbath - that is Saturday; Gimel to Jupiter and Sunday; Daleth to Mars and Monday; Kaph to the Sun and Tuesday; Peh to Venus and Wednesday; Resh to Mercury and Thursday; and Tau to the Moon and Friday.”

This is the same order of planets as that found in the 10th century Vatican manuscript, above.

It is understandable, perhaps, that the creators of the Golden Dawn accepted what they found in the Cypher MS as the correct attributions of the Hebrew letters. In a footnote (p 127), Runyon says (citing Gilbert's, The Sorcerer and His Apprentice) that S L Mathers, a principal creator of the Golden Dawn, claimed the Cypher MS had been in the possession of Eliphas Levi, and that the GD's tarot attributions represented his “secret system”. Runyon goes on to add (Ibid):

Quote
“The GD system does derive from Levi with two important changes. The Fool is elevated from the last Path to the first and the positions of Justice and Strength are interchanged to match the symbolism of ‘The Scales’ at Libra in proper sequence.”

All this appears to be true. The author of the Cypher MS, presumably Kenneth Mackenzie, was aware of Levi's attributions of the tarot. I cannot say whether they learned this system directly from Levi, or deduced it - or perhaps believed they deduced it - from Levi's published work (Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. 1854-1856). However, I think it is safe to say that, despite being aware of the Sefer Yetzirah, the author of the Cypher MS chose to derive their planetary attributions of the Hebrew letters from an apparently corrected version of Levi's tarot system.

“The Fool”, now the first trump in the corrected system, becomes naturally attributed to the first Hebrew letter, א, aleph. The next trump in sequence, “The Juggler”, then assumes the attribution of ב, beth, the second letter. Levi describes “The Juggler” as having “a youthful figure and curly hair, like Apollo or Mercury” (Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual, translated, annotated, and introduced by A E Waite. Samuel Weiser: New York, New York, 1972. p 386). “The Female Pope” (the Cypher MS's “High Priestess” and attributed to the letter ג, gimel) is described as “a woman crowned with a tiara, wearing the horns of the Moon and Isis” (Ibid). “The Empress” (now associated with ד, daleth, in the corrected system) is, according to Levi, “the Venus-Urania of the Greeks” (Ibid, p 387).

Here we have our first three planets, Mercury (or Sol/Apollo), Luna, and Venus, associated with the first three “double letters” of the Hebrew alphabet: בגד, or BGD, respectively. Since the tarot trump “The Sun” (now associated with resh in the corrected system) seems a better fit for Sol, we might readily assume that beth is therefore Mercury. I find no further explicit hints in Levi's description of the tarot (Ibid, p 387, et seq), but it is not difficult to see a natural relationship between his “Tower struck by lightning” (now pe) and Mars. Likewise, Levi's “Kether or the Kabalistic Crown” (the Cypher MS's “Universe", attributed to taw) seems a natural fit for Saturn. Only Jupiter remains, attributed to our remaining planetary trump, “The Wheel of Fortune”, and the letter kaf. Gathering these together, we have

Quote
Beth, ב: Mercury.
Gimel, ג: Luna.
Dalet, ד: Venus.
Kaf, כ: Jupiter.
Pe, פ: Mars.
Resh, ר: Sol.
Taw, ת: Saturn.

These are the same as the Golden Dawn's attributions of the planets to the seven “double letters”, as we saw above.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2019, 01:53:18 AM by Satyr »

Nubti

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Re: The Golden Dawn
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2019, 08:34:47 AM »
Fascinating. Which then brings up the question... which one is more accurate in general, and which one is more accurate for particular applications?


Satyr

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Re: The Golden Dawn
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2019, 04:26:20 PM »
Fascinating. Which then brings up the question... which one is more accurate in general, and which one is more accurate for particular applications?

According to Hayman, the earliest recoverable layer of the Sefer Yetzira (as it was in the 800s or so) simply says that He (Ja), with the seven “double letters”, formed the planets, days, and apertures.

The text of the Sefer Yetzira is very fluid. Scribes felt free to edit, alter, annotate, or expand on the text they were copying. So, the next development is the addition of an explicit statement connecting each of these seven letters to a planet, to a day of the week, and to an aperture in the human head.

Then over time this information gets corrupted, corrected (sometimes incorrectly), reinterpreted in light of current doctrine, and so on.

There may not be an answer of which we may be absolutely certain. We can say it is probable that the original intended associations were in the inverse order of the apparent speed of planetary motion:

Quote
Beth, ב: Saturn.
Gimel, ג: Jupiter.
Dalet, ד: Mars.
Kaf, כ: Sol.
Pe, פ: Venus.
Resh, ר: Mercury.
Taw, ת: Luna.

We find this planetary sequence again and again in the Western tradition. I don't see much reason to doubt that it was the original intended attributions.

They seem to make sense when applied to our preferred version of the Tree of Life. I think “The Magus” makes more sense associated with Saturn, for example. Even in simple, obvious ways, such as wanna-be wizards don't wander the streets dressed in orange.

Luna makes sense connecting Malkuth to Yesod. From a Hebrew standpoint, Jupiter makes sense descending upon Tiphareth, and so on. The system we can recover from the 10th seems to work better than the Golden Dawn's and others.

Satyr

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Re: The Golden Dawn
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2019, 04:32:58 PM »
If you mean which version of the Sefer Yetzirah is most accurate, there likely isn't one. Hayman published what he believed to be the earliest recoverable text, but even that is a product of a developed scribal tradition. We really cannot know exactly what the original was, except in the broadest outline.

Nubti

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Re: The Golden Dawn
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2019, 11:00:38 PM »
That makes sense. I'll need to re-think some things w/r/t the Tarot. It seems perfect as it is, but with this development, perhaps some of this is to be found regardless.

I'll also look into mapping this onto Achad's tree. It's an interesting reversal that may play well with this?

Satyr

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Re: The Golden Dawn
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2019, 03:14:41 AM »
I'll also look into mapping this onto Achad's tree. It's an interesting reversal that may play well with this?

I used Achad's Tree to confound my opponents.

I do not have much faith in it.