Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Thesis Proceeding at Snail's Pace

I had my eight hours of training in Flash today. (Don’t worry, I get eight more hours tomorrow! Yee Haw!) What did I do when I got home after drinking some caffeine and eating, I figured I should work on my thesis!

I cleaned up my chapter that is recycled from the first paper on my site on defining Western Esotericism a bit and finally started writing the chapter on the History and Structure of the Golden Dawn. This is probably going to be a long chapter…

My thesis is on the soul in the Golden Dawn but I have to explain, after having spent a chapter defining western esotericism and its current academic study, what the Golden Dawn is and how it is Western Esoteric. In the course of discussing the Golden Dawn, I have to discuss its founding. This requires a whole section on the fraudulent nature of its founding and on the Cipher Manuscript. Following this, I have to discuss the structure of the order, which means I have to discuss initiation rituals and then point out how the Golden Dawn puts maps their rituals onto the Tree of Life.

I had a horrible realization then: Not only would my academic readers not know what the Tree of Life was, thus requiring a page or two of explanation and probably a diagram, they probably haven’t the faintest idea of what an initiation ritual is like in fraternal orders, since the Golden Dawn basically follows the same model as Freemasonry. So, I then had to write a bit about that… It’s turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down.

This is all in the “first draft, I was probably high when I wrote it too!” stage but I figured that I would quote my first draft of my description of initiation rituals. With how I write first drafts, I assume it is a mix of too long winded in places and overly terse in others. I’m trying to keep it brief though so my advisor doesn’t try to hurt me.

I offer it for your amusement:

The Structure of the Golden Dawn and its Rituals

In order to understand the Golden Dawn and its teachings, it is necessary to discuss its initiation rituals and the structures of the degrees into which these rituals admitted members. Similarly to Freemasonry and other fraternal orders, the Golden Dawn is organized as a hierarchical order in which members are taken through rituals in order to gain access to a specific degree of membership. In all such fraternal orders, initiatory ritual work follows the same general pattern with specifics varying highly from organization to organization. Degree rituals are progressive with the symbolism building upon that of the previous degree and its rituals. Additionally, the initiate member has no foreknowledge of the content of the initiation ritual and is generally blindfolded during a portion of it, heightening a sense of disorientation and surprise. The normal pattern for such initiations is as follows: the initiate member is brought to an antechamber and given clothing to wear for the ritual. They wait there until a ritual officer, a guide, comes to retrieve them. When this occurs, the initiate is blindfolded and led into a darkened ritual space by this guide. During the course of the ritual, the initiate is led about a room by the guide, who ensures they arrived at the proper location as needed. Throughout the ritual space, there are other ritual officers engaged at assigned stations. They are generally garbed in clothing specific to their office and often carrying implements of a symbolic nature. As the initiate is led blindfolded about the space by the guide, these officers engage in speeches or ritual actions carrying a symbolic meaning according to the symbolism of the fraternal order. The initiate periodically has the blindfold removed for interactions with these officers or for the display of objects or images of symbolic import. In the case of the Golden Dawn, there are often drawings of the cabalistic Tree of Life or arrangements of ritual implements on an altar. The ritual officers will often challenge the initiate with a question demanding a response, which is given by the guide as the initiate's proxy. Following a series of such events, the initiate has his or her blindfold removed and is congratulated on passing through the ordeal of the initiation. At that time, any passwords or handshakes used by the organization are communicated to the initiate member and then a lecture is given by the presiding ritual officer on the symbolism of the actions of the officers or of the things seen during the course of the ritual. This basic pattern is used in Freemasonry and has subsequently been borrowed by such diverse groups as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, The Grange, the Knights of Pythias, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, and, of course, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

This is then followed by a discussion of Tree of Life symbolism that I’m working on.

One problem: for the life of me, I cannot find a frickin’ table that shows the Golden Dawn degrees mapped onto the spheres of the Tree of Life. I know I’ve seen one before but I have a wall of books facing me. I may be forced to write my own but I’d prefer to reference one since this is an academic piece and I have to reference things all the time (leaving aside that there are no references above…).