Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Roots of Golden Dawn: Part 6

Oral v. written tradition

One of the great debates that affect what we view as the roots of Golden Dawn is whether Golden Dawn is essentially an oral or a written tradition.

I must admit that I have a bias. Earlier in my magical career, I ended up in a group that was essentially an oral tradition group. And in my less than humble opinion, things had gone very wrong in that group.

The leader basically gave lessons to his current favorites; if you were not on that list, you got next to nothing. And to get and stay on his list, you had to give absolute obedience, homage (his opinion was the only correct answer) and lots of money. Women had to...ahem...lets not go there.

So for me, the whole idea of Golden Dawn being at root an oral tradition sets off loud alarms; I am biased against it based on previous group experiences.

But what if the oral tradition is part of the Golden Dawn system? really deep down at its roots?

The idea behind the oral tradition is that the most important parts of a system, if not all of it, are not ever written down. Ever.

Exactly how much of the Golden Dawn system is not written down is questionable. For instance, I have ran across several webpages for groups claiming to have access to the oral traditions that say that thousands of pages of information are not written down and only transmitted though the oral tradition.

Ok, the writer in me wants to know how do you know how many pages it is if it is not written down. I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?

The oral tradition supporters are naturally opposed to the members of the written tradition. The idea of stuff being written down seems to alarm the oral traditionists.

Members of the oral tradition point to Regardie and Crowley as examples of what can go wrong when most, if not all, your material is in written form. In all fairness to both writers, one needs to ask what they didn't publish---the answer to that tends to put them both in a more favorable light.

I must admit that the oral tradition is great for any system that depends upon absolute secrecy to exist. It is also great for those leaders who should not be leading in the first place, those who use their respective groups and traditions as sources of ego strokes, power bases, personal ATM machines, and for other perks that are best left unsaid even in the darkest of alleys.

And yes, supporters of the oral tradition are right when they say that all it takes to destroy a tradition that depends upon absolute secrecy is to publish the secrets.

But Golden Dawn was never a completely oral tradition, nor has everything been written down. Much of what we have of Golden Dawn are student notes; some of them are brief, and others are the full record of a lecture.

It is much like what happens in colleges and universities: students take notes during the lectures; some take down every word that the professor says, other merely jot a few keywords.

One of the best examples of every word being written down are the lectures on the symbolism of the hall pillars. These were just lectures that someone wrote down every word of. And if they wouldn't have, we would not have this information today.

But that is not the most important thing to remember. The most important thing to remember is that all oral traditions are just one missed heart beat away from extinction.

All it takes for an oral tradition to get weaker and less valuable is for the only person that knows a certain mystery to die before passing that bit of information onto someone else.

And ultimately, that is why I encourage people to write things down. It ensures that the knowledge is preserved.

I told you that I had a bias.

~~~To Be Continued~~~

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