Recent weeks have seen a fair amount of internet furor over the (apparently hitherto not widely known) usage of the name “Golden Dawn” by a nationalist/fascist political party in Greece. This group has been active, apart from a brief hiatus between 2005 and 2007, since the 1980s.
The current focus on them seems to stem from a series of events in the past few weeks, beginning with the assassination of anti-right wing musician and activist Pavlos Fyssas, and culminating in the banning of the Party and arrest of its leadership. The general Pagan community has been aware of the Party for some time, particularly after Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus (a rather reactionary individual in his own right) decried its “neopaganistic ideology.” The ongoing discussion around this, along with the high number of news articles about the Party, placed stories about it on the front page of Google searches of “the Golden Dawn,” and at last garnered the attention of public figures associated with the actual Golden Dawn tradition of magick. The overall response has been disappointing.
The specifically Golden Dawn reaction to this began (in the blogosphere) with a post by Donald Michael Kraig titled “A Call to Leaders of the Golden Dawn.” It is (sadly) a blog post of the caliber I have come to expect of Mr. Kraig. That is to say, it contains a few reasonable ideas presented in a way that does not support them, and tells us nothing about the context of the current issue. Instead, we are treated to a narrative about Houdini, followed by a comparison to the current issue to the Horos scandal that undid Mathers. Kraig claims that the Horos scandal caused a split in the Golden Dawn that resulted in the defectors changing their name. They did this, he said, in order to distance themselves from the activities of the Horoses, which were highly unethical and illegal, and resulted in a trial he compares to that of O.J. Simpson. He then suggests that we who are leaders in various Golden Dawn groups should likewise consider changing our names, or at least publishing a statement to the effect that we are not Greek Racists or supporters of any such ideologies.
Actually, he reverses these two responses in terms of their level of severity, stating that we should “at least have the decency” to change our name. Why he doesn’t understand how issuing a statement is a lesser response confuses me. Issuing a statement seems like a rather reasonable response to the increased publicity of an egregious organization. My own Order, in fact, issued such a statement before Kraig seems to have heard of the situation. Changing the name seems rather extreme, given the localized nature of the Party and the fact that it has existed since around the same time as the inception of the earliest of the contemporary Golden Dawn groups. This horse left the barn quite some time ago.
I can see arguing that groups in Europe or those who might wish to operate in Europe in the future would want to alter or change their names. This would arguably be self-defense. Having a name similar to that of an organization that has been banned has a number of possible ramifications. Web filters might block people from finding your group. Law enforcement could potentially investigate you to some degree. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to choose a different name to avoid the potential distraction from your Order’s main work.
But “decency”? I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to address a public figure in the magical community this way, but seriously, fuck you Donald. No really. Go fuck yourself. You could put forth a perfectly logical justification for a name change, but you resort to pompous, arrogant, and pointless appeals to morality. This not only weakens your point, but constitutes an act of bullying. I don’t need you, or any other public figure, to tell me that racism, nationalism, and fascism are bad things. Nor am I, or any other high ranking member of any order, obligated to conform to what you consider decent, simply on the strength of your assertion that it is so. If it is “decency” you are defending, then demonstrate how our failing to change our names falls short of a conception of decency we can agree on, or at least one that you make a case for somewhere in the body of the piece charging me to take such an action. Failing to do so renders your injunction weak at best, abrasive and manipulative at worst.
I could go on about Kraig’s post (it really is one of the worst pieces of rhetoric I’ve seen from him, and this is not a trivial achievement on his part) but I also want to address a less noxious but nevertheless lackluster example, from Nick Farrell. Nick’s post, “The Golden Dawn Is Not a Bunch of Nazis”, is disappointing to me mainly because of the statement which comes near the end of the piece. Farrell here states, in bold face set off from the rest of the article, that “The ideas of the Far Right (and left for that matter) are alien to occultism, mysticism and magic. If you find any of these ideas attractive, you cannot be a viable member of the Golden Dawn. You might learn a few techniques, but you are forever locked out from discovering the real secrets.”
I find this statement problematic for a few reasons. The first sentence would actually require an entire essay to justify, and even this would be difficult given that it is proceeded by a list of very political, mostly right wing ties on the part of early Golden Dawn members, as well as a discussion of Evola. It is hard to see how these views could be considered “alien to occultism” when, historically, many major occult figures have held them. Given this, we are left with the question of what exactly would constitute “viability”, and how the founders of the Tradition failed to achieve it. I don’t know if this is just a poor choice of words on Nick’s part, but viability isn’t a very high standard. My personal instinct would be to say that a viable member of the Golden Dawn is someone who is capable of actually earning a 5=6. That’s the goal of the Outer Order, so it seems reasonable to mark that as the standard of viability, if one were inclined to do something like that.
But my other problem is that Nick’s statement makes such an attempt at all. Assigning an a priori condition to attainment assumes a great deal of evidence, and we don’t find that here. It is simply asserted and then justified by the following:
The Golden Dawn system of magic is never about extremes, it is always to do with balance. The extreme politics of the Far Right and Left are Qlippothic within Golden Dawn philosophy.
I have two problems with this. First, it represents a common misunderstanding about political movements and ideologies. “Extremism” is a label that people outside the memeplex of an ideology place on those viewpoints. Very rarely do movements viewed by the mainstream as “extreme” see themselves that way, or use that terminology in reference to their own movement. From the perspective of the membership, it is the current mainstream condition of society and the views of their enemies that are considered extreme. In many cases, this may be justified. Radical feminism, for instance, sees capitalist patriarchal society as structurally sexist and racist. It is very hard, for me at least, to see how this is not the case, given the numerous ways in which woman and people of color get the short end of this stick in our world on a daily basis.
The terms “extreme” and “radical” get used as if they are interchangeable quite frequently, but there is a difference. “Extreme” is, again, a term used by opponents of a movement to suggest that its ideology is beyond the pale. This might be the case, or it might not. “Radical”, on the other hand, refers to an attempt to change society at its roots (radix). On both left and right, radicals view problems as systemic or cultural rather than merely interpersonal. If you’re a radical, you see the system as fucked to the core.
Is taking note of an extreme imbalance and suggesting that an equally strong response is needed an imbalanced viewpoint? My objection to this is that it assumes that the current structure of society represents a normative ideal. That the social system we have now is more or less structurally sound, and only needs minor reforms or legislation to fix remaining inequalities. In other words, it assumes that the ideology of modern, centrist liberalism is not only a reasonable viewpoint to have, but is also the one that allows an individual to achieve the nebulous goal of viability within the Golden Dawn.
Nick’s post suffers because he makes a very broad, deontological assertion that unintentionally privileges a particular viewpoint. There are many ways to discuss the relationship between magical aspiration and political views. This is one of the more superficial and unsatisfying ones. A far more effective approach would be to point out the ways in which any political bias can blind you to important facts about yourself and the world. This has the advantage of having been studied scientifically, and it has pragmatic consequences that are demonstrably detrimental to the goal of enlightenment.
All that said, Farrell’s post at least addresses larger implications for members of the Golden Dawn, and it is possible for me to lend it a qualified agreement. Kraig, on the other hand, makes a big deal out of how morally upright he is, demands that we agree with him, and implies that if we don’t, we are not of his level or righteousness.
It is frustrating to see such a superficial and (in Kraig’s case) annoying response to the issue of the Greek Golden Dawn. This ties into so many interesting and important concerns within the Golden Dawn community that it ought to spur real discussion of complex problems. I have yet to see this on a broad scale.
Making a statement that your group is not affiliated with racism is a rather trivial, if necessary action to take. But the discussion needs to move beyond that if we plan to survive and thrive, to become a meaningful part of the larger culture.
The question we ought to be asking ourselves is not “what do we do?” We really ought to be making a considered, long term examination of our history and the ideas within the Tradition we find ourselves working in. The ways in which those ideas were shaped by the (sometimes “extreme) views of its founders. What does it mean for us that the system we work may have been, in part, (as some have asserted) a “magical engine for putting the Stuarts on the Throne of England”? More broadly, in what ways do we retain, within the structural DNA of the system, a worldview that, from our perspective, would be considered “extreme” simply by being the product of a bygone age?
I really think this situation should start a different discussion than the one we’re currently having. Statements of opposition to bad ideas are of the nature of “magical hygiene,” necessary but not particularly worthy of praise. Changing our name? Maybe, but not for the reasons Kraig gives, and not simply in response to this.
What I keep returning to, personally, is the feeling that, we of the esoteric paths, lack a robust, vital memesphere that can have influence outside the narrow bounds of our communities. We seem to think that we live in a vacuum, and our only responsibility is to react if someone happens to be shitting on our particular doorstep.
I don’t think this is a good thing, and it makes me wonder if we have anything to offer, and if, indeed, we can survive.