That Lineage Thing

Being in the Golden Dawn has its advantages. Apart from the numerous toys and sharp objects one gets to play with, and a drag show that could put the Vatican to shame, we also benefit from having a foundation myth that no one in their right mind would take seriously. (I’m fully aware of groups on the internet who do take it seriously. You may assume that I consider these people to not be in their right mind.) Wicca had, for a time, some scholarly backup for certain elements now considered questionable. Margaret Murray was in fact considered an expert by non-specialists during her lifetime. The Golden Dawn’s foundation story pretty much evaporated upon contact with the outside world. For those not familiar, the tale involves groups of German Adepts who conveniently provide charters and just as conveniently die when they are no longer needed.

In the Golden Dawn, one can choose to either accept that the founders of the Order deliberately created a false pedigree and move on, or find ways to equivocate around the issue. Ultimately the decision depends on how much time one wishes to waste or how much money can be milked from the credulous who, in this case, tend to be more incredibly credulous than most.

Likewise the system itself. It’s a mish mash of elements from half a dozen traditions, two or more of which were historically hostile to one another. The Golden Dawn system works because of its framework and because people have been working the Current in some variation or another for over a century. (Though the Golden Dawn itself was dead for around sixty years, elements of it were taken in part or whole into other systems, notably Crowley’s. It could be said to have survived in fragments.) Almost all of the current complaints about the New Age could be levied at the Golden Dawn with little need to adapt language.

I said earlier that I regard these things as an advantage, which may seem strange after all that. But truthfully, I think it is far better to have a system that one knows is a modern creation cobbled together from various public domain source texts with a quasi-masonic underpinning taken from (it must be said) documents lifted from a dead man’s apartment, than it is to think that one is practicing an ancient religion when one is not. Not because you’ve achieved the unachievable goal of historical honesty. But because when you know your sordid past you don’t have to worry about it.

I can get on with the Great Work, without being burdened with having to defend my lineage. If someone says “Mathers was a wanker” I can simply say “Yes, but he was a very smart wanker and actually managed to put something together that influenced modern occultism up to the present day.”

As you might have suspected, the foray into my background was a McGuffin. The point is that the various controversies over lineage and historical accuracy are distractions. Far better to get on with ones work, acknowledging the web of half truths and outright fabrications that make up every aspect of our lives, not just our magickal endeavors.

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3 comments
  1. Have you ever checked out any Aurum Solis material – especially the books by Denning and Phillips? My impression (just from reading publicly available “exoteric” materials without Initiation) is that their “origin myth” is a bit more subtle – but not without it’s “difficult to document” claims here and there.

    Apuleius

    • I’ve seen some of it. A fair amount is basically the Golden Dawn with Greek instead of Hebrew. Their Enochian material kicks the old GD’s ass. Don’t know that much about their origin, though.

  2. Henry said:

    I’ve encountered way too many that are hung up on the whole lineage-thing as well. You have to laugh quietly to yourself on how silly it is.
    On another note, while exploring the Mormon faith, I discovered they too have a lineage tradition in their priesthood. When a male member of the church is anointed as a “priest”, they are given a list going back to Joseph Smith (and who ever it was that was supposed to have anointed him) so one can trace the line of their authority back to the source.
    I just find it interesting that a “Christian” organization thinks that it is important as well. But, then again, we do have the catholic church….

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