Friday, January 20, 2012

Working Draft or Finished Project

One of the leaps of faith that occasionally disturbs me is the level of confidence that people place on the Cipher Manuscript. And this includes the amount of faith that Westcott and Mathers placed on the document. It is assumed by people that the Cipher Manuscript is a finished project.

Thanks to my experience in designing rituals, I am not confident that the Cipher Manuscript actually represents a finished project. To me, it looks more like an ongoing work in progress where the creator changed their mind about earlier parts, made changes and did not go back to correct earlier pages because correcting pages written in a cipher is a pain in the lower regions.

(For the record, I sometimes do not correct my own outlines, written in the clear, when I change my mind later in the process of ritual design. There is a possibility that the creator of the Cipher Manuscript didn't either. And he would have had more reason not to.)

Yes, I realize that I am a Golden Dawn heretic. The myth of an earlier Order implies that the Cipher Manuscript has to be the shorthand memory aid for a pre-existing set of rituals. This is the way that Mathers and Westcott and most Order leaders have treated it. But what if it is actually a rough draft and not the final draft?

Personally, some of the difficulties presented in the Cipher Manuscript, including the change in the number and style of pentagrams used in the rituals, can be best explained if the Cipher Manuscript is actually an rough outline with the writer changing their mind as they go along and not bothering to make corrections in the earlier sections. Yes, it is heresy...but it is something you have to consider if you are serious about studying the Cipher Manuscript.

And now, we will invoke the spirits of the blogosphere to provide evidence that the Cipher Manuscript is actually a finished project. (No fair just screaming that Third Order says it is a finished project, you must show your work and evidence---otherwise I am going to continue to use to use my outlines and ritual performances as proof that it is a rough draft---and using the rituals that Mathers and Westcott built from the outline is not actual proof either.) Oh great spirits of the blogosphere prove to me that my lack of faith in the Cipher Manuscript is misguided and just plain silly---I dare you. (Hey, it has been a slow Golden Dawn news week...because I chose to ignore certain postings on another blog...and you can't blame a boy for trying to create a new excitement around here. Unless you really want me to discuss the posts on that another which case, feel free to say so in the comment section.)


J.C. said...

Personally, I wouldn't think of your philosophy and approach to the Golden Dawn work as heresy. That opinion falls to those that consider themselves the utmost authority and also disagree with you.

I think we see variation and improvements in the style of rituals over the course of even the early days, which certainly continues to this day, even slight variations existing within the same order or even a temple from Hierophant to Hierophant.

I would agree to an extent that the cipher manuscripts are but a sort of rough draft, but at times they are what we all fall back to in order to measure how far we are varying from the original expression of the ritual. Considering privacy that exists between different orders, I would say that this is the one thing that we all can agree on as a guide for how the ritual should be structured. The rest is our best interpretation and expression of what has been passed down.

When it comes down to it, either the ritual works for its intended purpose, or it doesn't.

Peregrin said...

Hi Morgan,

thanks for this post. I thought the general academic consensus WAS that the Cipher Manuscript is a working up of a proposed series of rituals - a draft work in progress as you describe. I am a bit confused that you could be classed as an heretic over this view :)

Surely, the esoteric folk who view these scripts as a finished project, simply recording an established tradition, are in the minority?

The fact that the author of the script makes reference to material he (most likely a 'he') obviously knows well or has in his library shows this clearly.

If someone was cribbing notes of rituals they had witnessed, we could perhaps expect them to recognize the Biblical verses etc. But when we get instructions to 'show the earth Tablet, as in the old manuscript', it seems to suggest a creative not recording hand.

If these were the 'official' transmitted rituals of a tradition, they would be fuller, more consistent, more creative and logical.

I'd guess these scripts were the working up of a fairly experienced ritualist, doing as most modern ritualists do - drawing on past rituals, structures, wisdom and ideas to create something new. Yes, he may have drawn on an older traditions rituals he saw, but I think more likely that the bulk of the material came from his own ideas and traditions he knew intimately. I mean, look at the synthesis going on...

In any case, such a project produces in its early-mid stages exactly the sort of material and formation found in the Scripts.

Still hoping those spirits come and prove you (and me) wrong... :)

Now I must go and look for that other blog post you mention ...