Saturday, March 13, 2010

Were Mathers and Westcott initiates of the Golden Dawn?

Were Samuel Macgregor Mathers and William Wynn Westcott actually initiates of the Hermetic Golden Dawn? At first glance, this question seems clear cut, and perhaps a little stupid. But then again, I cruise in that back corner were the clearer a question appears, the more you need to reexamine the issue to figure out what it really going on.

This particular question came about because of VH Frater SR's comment to one of my previous blog posts where I was wondering exactly who was denying the connection between Golden Dawn and Freemasonry. Once I heard his response, I realized that I am one of the people he is talking about denying the connection.

Because I do not force people to join Freemasonry, and point out that they are two different Orders, I am helping deny the connection and worth of Freemasonry. *sigh* I should have known that I was one of the deniers.

For the record, I believe that Freemasonry is valuable resource for some people. But given the fact that most of the people I know only have time to be active in one Order, and they tend to be interested in the occult, I tend to emphasize Golden Dawn over Freemasonry. I also belong to an Order with female members, therefore emphasizing Freemasonry tends to put them in a bad position (almost a second-class position if you ask me).

Also because I consider Golden Dawn starting in 1888, and having no previous lineage that has the right of rulership over the modern Golden Dawn, I am helping deny the connection. *sigh* As I said, I should have realized that I was guilty.

For the record: Yes, Westcott and Mathers were Master Masons. In Westcott's case, he was a member of a lot of Orders (not as many as Waite, but close). Yes, we have to say that part of their personal lineage comes from Freemasonry. But I am not sure that we can claim that any of their authority to rule Golden Dawn came from that particular direction. Today, we tend to think of Freemasonry as the Mother of all Orders. Perhaps it is.

Then again, I am one of the orphans who have serious doubts about the worth of an unbroken lineage. Of course, that may just because I have encountered a few people who considered their lineage better than mine, therefore they thought that they were more fit to rule than the people I answered to. I have seen the utter messes that these lineage pounders have made of their groups. Extinct groups abound that were built on the claim of lineage.

Heck, if I wanted to play that game, I could claim that part of my lineage traces though the EOEW. I could claim that based on the symbolism of the "RED" degree that I have been exposed to the Adeptus Major Grade energies...but I don't. Why? Because they are different systems.

I am sorry, but I do not buy into the idea that because Westcott and Mathers were initiates of Freemasonry, or SRIA, or fill-in-the-blank Order that they were initiates of Golden Dawn. If it doesn't work for me to shore up my lineage, it should not work for them either.

As for them being physical initiates of Golden Dawn, my answer is: No, they were not. I do not buy into the theory that they were astral initates or self-initiates either. And ultimately, it does not matter that they were not.

Mathers and Westcott had gone though lodgekit bootcamp. They had a ton of lodge experience. They knew the symbolism contained in the Cipher Manuscript. And most importantly, Golden Dawn had no lineage predating 1888. Isis-Urania was the first Golden Dawn lodge. The Golden Dawn rituals were never worked before they started to work them.

Westcott, Mathers, and Woodman did not need a lineage to open up the energies of Golden Dawn. They were the elders of the tradition; they were the ones that laid the foundation of the system. They were the ones who built the door to the system and installed the locks. It is the rest of us that follow them that need a key to open the door to the system. Fortunately, for most of us, they were not the ones who drew up the initial blueprint of the Order (the Cipher Manuscript), otherwise most of us would be stuck outside freezing.


Peregrin said...

Hi Morgan,

Thanks for this post and very valid questions.

You write: “Because I do not force people to join Freemasonry, and point out that they are two different Orders, I am helping deny the connection and worth of Freemasonry. *sigh* I should have known that I was one of the deniers.”

With honest respect, not meaning to be obtuse, let alone get anywhere near to taking a ‘position’, but I read GH Fr SR’s comments a bit differently.

I did not see him saying GD initiates have to be Freemasons and he clearly states the two are separate Orders. What am I missing from GH Fr SR’s words that gives you this impression? Or is this part of a larger conversation I am not party to?

I agree with you regarding the problem with any sort of valorisation of Freemasonry within a tradition or Order which has equality between the sexes as one of its founding principles. And most co-masonry is too TS and Leadbeater influenced to tie into the Hermetic principles of the GD. There are some Orders of female Masonry without the TS influence but they are so few and far between to be almost non existent.

Lineage as you colourfully points out means nothing without grounded magical and spiritual attainment and has been a too big a furphy in western magic for too long. However, I do think GH Fr SR is correct when he says Mathers and Westcott “could draw some authority from their freemasonic standing alone”.

On a purely practical level without the need to examine inner currents or lineages, if Mathers and Westcott were not Masons, were not in the SIRA, no one would have taken them seriously. High membership status in these Orders meant something to the pool of potential recruits Westcott first pitched the GD at. These days it means much less, which is probably a very good thing.

Finally, I agree that founders of any Order (unless they go back to square one and get initiated as a Neophyte once the Order is established) are not initiates of that Order. The question for some however remains: were Mathers and Westcott initiates of a Rosicrucian Order (later outwardly the RR et AC) which itself was the force behind the GD and which without the GD could not (by its own rules) exist? I don’ think there is much physical evidence for an affirmative answer to this, but many folk think otherwise.

Thanks, again. :)

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

Actually, I might be guilty of reading things into his comment that is not there. Having said that, I would like to mention the fact that there was a Golden Dawn Order a couple of years ago that wanted all their Adepts to also be Master Masons. I am not sure if they still have this idea in play, but it did play a part in my stance on this issue.