The word ‘Hermetic’ appears a lot in the writings of modern ceremonial magicians. In fact over the years it has increasingly been linked with the two things. It has become an identifier – there are wiccans and there hermetics. When you ask what is a hermetic someone will probably rattle off something about it being ceremonial and intellectual rather than emotional and spontaneous magic.
This is because modern magic has largely lost its roots. Historical is to cast back to the 19th century and no further. I am prepared to lay money on the fact that only a handful of modern ‘hermetic’ magicians have ever read the Corpus Hermetica, which was the bible of Hermetic magicians until the 20th century.

The Corpus was a collection of writings with a Greco-Egyptian Gnostic flavour which was assembled in the second century AD. The actual material which made it up was fairly flexible and may reflect the ideas of different neo-platonic communities. Some of them are magical and others suggest the Gnostic idea of salvation. Some of them have turned up in the dead sea scrolls.

Where they become important to us is that they were translated during that great codification of esoteric knowledge – the European Renaissance. They influenced the great magical thinkers of that period overwhelmingly and this can be seen in the teaching they wrote down.

The Hermetica was a huge influence on alchemy and had a knock on effect on more conventional types of magic that were influenced by this tradition.

So why have we stopped reading the Hermetica? The other day I was in a news group and someone spouted some twaddle about the elements. The idea was that the element of earth was made by mixing the other three elements of air, fire and water. It was twaddle which I had heard before, so it was not the writer’s fault. In fact he quoted the great 20th century magician Franz Bardon as saying it. Whether Bardon said it or not, it was still the sort of twaddle that would not be spouted a hundred years ago when reading the Hermetica was compulsory for all magicians.

“In the deep there was boundless darkness and water and fine intelligent spirit, all things existing by divine power in chaos. Then a holy light was sent forth and the elements solidified out of liquid essence…. All was unlimited and unformed, light elements (fire and air) were set apart to the heights and the heavy (earth and water) were grounded like moist sand, the whole of them delimited by fire and raised aloft, to be carried by spirit. The gods became visable in the shape of the stars and all their constellations and the arrangement of the lighter elements (ie fire and air) corresponded to the gods contained in it.?

How is it possible to understand the magic systems of the ancients unless you have read this fundamental work? Yeah, it is hard going, although a lot easier than the other important work – the Culdean Oracles and is even more contradictory than the Bible. But there are good translations about. ‘Hermetica’ by Brian Copenhaver is one of the best , although you can find older translations online here

There is so much here that is yet to be explored by Modern Magicians in a practical way. It also needs to be looked out with modern minds who need to understand what these medieval and ancient magicians really believed they were up to. This is particularly the case in dealing with the ideas of angels, elementals, demons and archons.


One of the biggest debates in GD land is whether or not someone can be astrally initiated by a group. Currently the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn and its off-shoots is one of the main proponents of this technique. Basically it involves the temple performing a rite for a person who is unable to attend the main temple.The justification for this action is that

  1. It does everything that a normal initiation does.
  2. It was used in the original Golden Dawn.
  3. It helps those who would not be able, to contact the spirit of the order.

Firstly let us look at point two. If astral initiation was used within the GD there would be some evidence of it, unfortunately such evidence requires a leap of faith, not in the GD but in Astral initiation itself.

Going through the membership roles we find that there is only one actual member who was ever admitted by anything other than a standard 0=0. This was Emile Andrianyi who was admitted into the Ahathor Temple by post on 3 July 1895 0=0. There is no mention of this being an astral initiation.  Another argument by the Astral Initiation people is that Sprengle gave Woodman, Westcott and Mathers a 5=6 grade astrally to enable them to set up the GD.  However none of the paperwork seems to suggest this, the term was not mentioned in any of the Sprengle letters.  Likewise neither did Westcott mention it in his diaries.  Of course, you could argue that was because Sprengle was an invention of Westcott.  Either way an Astral initiation at this point was not required or used.
So, if an astral initiation was taking place then where and when and why did it not leave a trace of paperwork? There are no records of astral initiations being performed, nor any members who are identified as being part of the GD who had their initiations astrally recorded. Nor is there any mention of the procedure being used in the various editions of by-laws, nor any diary notes from anyone saying that they had taken part in an astral initiation. While we have access to many different GD rituals, there are no recorded instructions for how to perform on.

Occam’s razor tells us that if all the evidence suggests that we have to assume that it is logical that the Golden Dawn did not perform astral initiations.

However there is some proof that towards the end of the the Ahathor Temple’s life, the Mathers were selling ‘ initiations’ to wealthy Americans. These people were not recorded Ahathor minute book. It is clear that people at the time considered this a scam and not really part of the tradition which had lasted many years without the concept.

Returning to the first point that astral initiation does everything that an ordinary initiation does. A physical initiation is an intensely emotional experience with physical and emotional reactions that have a deep impact on the person. Even the least psychically aware person reports being able to feel or see something thing. No in the case of an astral initiation, a person is supposed to be in a meditative state at the time of the initiation. For an initiation to have any impact, such a person should be able to feel something, if not at the immediate time, but in their dreams immediately afterwards. This would be the minimum for any 0=0 initiation. However the reports of people who have undergone astral initiations are unable to provide these sorts of experiences. Reports that I have received have been extremely nebulous or non-existent. The technical requirements for an astral initiation is that it should work on the astral, therefore I would expect to see a person pick-up symbolism of the astral temple (anything Egyptian or angelic) or feelings of loss of control or darkness. Maybe even the odd rising sun our two. However what reports I have seen have included comments which were so nebulous that they are more likely to be psychosomatic or wish-self-fulfilment.

“I felt a lot of power… (could you be more specific?) no just power.?

“I felt my consciousness shift. (In what way? Where to?) I don’t know really.?

Where people have said that they have seen definite symbols these have been general and probably not connected to the initiation rite.

One person said he saw a pyramid. This would have been of interest as the pillars do have pyramids on them. However he clarified this as saying it was a four sided ‘great pyramid’ which was huge.

Another said he saw a dove flew above him. This was interesting as the falling of the holy spirit could be indicative of the Heirophant moving between the pillars. However since this person didn’t think that the dove meant anything more than being a symbol of peace this is unlikely to be anything specifically GD.

The other issue is that people who have been initiated should have some connection with the order and work within it. I am inclined to believe that the drop out rate of astral initiates would be considerably higher than those who are initiated in a group.

So finally we come to point three, that it provides a person with a connection to a working group that they would not otherwise had. This is clearly true, but in my opinion any link would appear to be administrative rather than spiritual. A real initiation takes place when the person is ready. Sometimes that will involve being in the right place and the right time. One thing that I have found interesting is that people have moaned like crazy online that there is no temple around them when most people are aware of at least one. My assumption is that many people have not really looked hard enough, too lazy to travel a bit, or are not ready for a real temple to open its doors to them.

I was asked about how my edit of Nature’s Finer Forces was doing. Earlier I mentioned that it had started to make sense to me once I replaced a lot of the Indian terms with Western ones. Below is the draft I was using which might be of interest. Note that it is a draft and nothing like a book would be, but it might give some clues. I have started to mix in some of my thinking too so some of this is not anything like the original. I would throw in a lot more Hermetic stuff too.

The elements are the five divisions of the Mind of God. acting upon itself. God has five states, having distinctive vibrations and performing different functions. The first is the Element of Spirit. After this comes the elements of Air, the Fire, Water and the Earth. Light is the subtle Fire Element. All the five elements cannot be seen. They are behind the matter that we see. Spirit produces sound, the Air touch, water taste and Earth smell.

How is it possible that spirit produces sound? After all spirit is supposed to be everywhere even in the vacuum of space. However a bell rung in a vacuum it makes no sound, you need air to do that. The idea is that you are not talking about literal sound. You are looking at vibration which on earth like sound. If you capture sound in machine and play it you will see it as a wave moving quickly between positive and negative force. However it is not energy. That is represented by fire. Instead it is a force that is created by distortion. If the universe is essentially mind and holographic then what we see are distortions that are like sound. Spirit is that which produces distortions to create a new reality. It is also interesting that sound can produce similar effects in ritual. As you will know if you have done much vibration work. It would be my guess that sound vibration has a direct correlation with spiritual vibration.

The Indians considered the shape of these spiritual distortions to be made up of single points or dots. Again this is a symbol and not meant to be seen as literal, it does not mean that the whole of the universe is made out of particles. The dots are the first point, which in Cabbalah we consider to be Kether. They also considered that the air is spherical in form, water the shape the half moon shaped and the earth square shaped. In the west we express all these elements under the form of the pentagram which shows the four elements under the control of spirit. However we also see each element as a form of a triangle, either upward (fire) or downward (water) pointing and with lines to denote earth and air. It is important to note that if these triangles were fused they would create a hexagram of perfection. Thus the five sided pentagram (also seen as a balanced human) is a six sided (ie perfected) expression of God. It also should be noted that the elements rule each of the planets of astrology.

Tantra says that each of the elements gives birth to the other and creates the following senses in humanity. Oddly this is not a list of the senses, and I am not sure that it was a mistranslation by Rama Prasad. He gives them as:

  1. Spirit sound.
  2. Air, touch.
  3. Fire, colour.
  1. water, taste
  2. Earth, smell

Again this is not literal and neither are the above senses in the accepted sense. It should be hearing, touch, smell, sight, and taste. This is probably a blind. If they are senses they are those of the divine Adam Kadmon. As I said before, Spirit is the distortion that creates the holographic image of the universe. Air is the method that spirit contacts the senses, fire is the energy behind the illusion of what we see, water is how we relate it to ourselves and Earth is how we absorb it into our reality.

The colours given to the various elemental forces are by the Indians are largely useless to us in the West, however they can be transferred. Spirit should be diamond light, Air should be yellow, fire red, water blue and Earth a mixture of yellow, red and blue. Another change that is required is the shifting of air and fire. This is a philosophical change and would be important if we used the rest of the Indian system. There the system follows the movement upwards from denser matter to clear spirit. Air appears less dense than fire. However Fire is considered the highest element in the West followed by air, water and then earth.

Prasad says that the elements exist on four planes of reality.

The four planes are:

          1. Physical Life force
          2. Mental Mind .
          3. Psychic Astral
          4. Spiritual Bliss were the soul merges with spirit .

          Notice that these four planes of reality have some similarities with the four cabbalistic worlds. The difficulty from the point of view of Hermetics is the flipping of the mental and the astral world. However again we are looking at it from a mystical point of view rather than a magical one. Astral would flow to spirit with mind being a lower denser reality in this situation.

          Powers of the Elements

          Space.—This is a quality of the Spirit Element . It has been asserted that the vibration of this ether is shaped like the hole of the ear, and that in the body thereof are microscopic points (Vindus). It follows, evidently, that the interstices between the points serve to give space to ethereal minima, and offer them room for locomotion

          Locomotion.—This is the quality of the Air Element . Air is a form of motion itself, for motion in all directions is motion in a circle, large or small. The Air Element has itself the form of spherical motion. When to the motion which keeps up the form of the different ethers is added the stereotyped motion of the Air , locomotion is the result.

          Expansion.—This is the quality of the Fire Element . Basically if you apply heat to anything it will cause it to move.

          Contraction.— This is the quality of the water Element . As has been remarked before, the direction of this ether is the reverse of the fire , and it is therefore easy to understand that contraction is the result of the play of this Element .

          Inertia — This is the quality of the Earth Element . This, it will be seen, is the reverse of Spirit . Spirit, gives room for locomotion, while Earth resists it. This is the natural result of the direction and shape of this vibration. It covers up the spaces of the Spirit .

          Smoothness.— This is a quality of the water Element .

          The elements come into existence even before the earth is manifested on the gross plane. So also do the centres of other planets come into existence. As the sun presents himself to the Archangelic forces there come into existence two states of the matter in which the sun lives and moves — the positive and the negative. Earth-life or Terrestrial Life force has four centres of force.

          Spirit is the most important of all the elements . It must, as a matter of course, precede and follow every change of state on every plane of life. Without this there can be no manifestation or cessation of forms. It is out of Spirit that every form comes, and it is in Spirit that every form lives. The Spirit is full of forms in their potential state. It intervenes between every two of the five elements , and between every two of the five principles.

          The evolution of the elements is always part of the evolution of a certain definite form. Thus the manifestation of the primary elements is with the definite aim of giving what we may call a body, a prâkritic form, to the Îshvara. In the bosom of the Infinite creative god there are hidden innumerable such centres. One centre takes under its influence a certain portion of the Infinite, and there we find first of all coming into existence in Spirit.

          Out of this Spirit comes the air Element (in the West this would be Fire) . This pervades the whole universe and has a certain centre which serves to keep the whole expanse together, and as one whole separate from other universes .

          It has been mentioned, and further on will be more clearly explained, that every Element has a positive and a negative phase. It is also evident on the analogy of the sun that places more distant from the centre are always negative to those which are nearer. We might say that they are cooler than these, as it will be seen further on that heat is not peculiar to the sun only, but that all the higher centres have a greater amount of heat than even the sun itself.

          Well, then, in this divine sphere of Air every atom of the Air is reacted upon by an opposite force. The more distant and therefore the cooler one reacts upon the nearer and therefore the hotter. The equal and opposite vibrations of the same force cancel each other, and both together pass into the âkâshic state. Thus, while some of this space remains filled up by the Brahmic Air on account of the constant outflow of this Element from the Spirit , the remainder is rapidly turned into Spirit . This Spirit is the mother of the divine fire Element . The fire Element working similarly gives birth through another Spirit to the water , and then to the Earth . This Divine Earth contains the qualities of all the preceding elements besides a fifth one of its own.

          The first stage of the universe, the ocean of psychic matter, has now come into existence in its entirety. This matter is,very fine, and there is absolutely no grossness in it as compared with the matter of the fifth plane. In this ocean shines the intelligence of the Goddess, and this ocean, with everything that might be manifest in it, is the self-conscious universe.

          In this universe there are forces which are called Manu in Theosophy but are actually collections of blueprints related to every aspect of life. From these spiritual beings called masters are created. Also from these plans all life is created.

          Air is the superior element on this plane followed by Fire , the water and earth.

          A while back there was some concern after it was reported that John Dee’s crystal was nicked from the Science Museum. Since this was given to him by an Angel this was considered a particularly bad thing.
          Well it appears to be back as a friend of mine just sent me a picture of the new exhibit in the BM.  This seems to indicate that if it was stolen it is now back in its case.

          There is no more misunderstood Golden Dawn ritual than the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram. This is partly because it is so good that it has been hijacked by many non-GD groups which have applied it to their symbolism. So persuasive have these modern efforts been, that someone told me that I was not classical Golden Dawn because I did not accept them! However their efforts, such as the overlaying of elemental attributions, have led to a lot of confusion and lead to lots of different questions by users who seek to ‘improve’ the ritual by re-aligning attributions that do not exist, aligning them to the quarters or inserting colours.

          In the case of this ritual, ignorance is bliss and too much knowledge can cause you to miss a lot of of what it is trying to do.

          When the LBRP was written the GD didn’t have a Portal or and Inner Order. Candidates after they were given their 0=0 initiation were given the LBRP as more or less their only practical exercise in magic. There were no visualisation instructions, no elemental attributions, the Divine names were given as a formula and that was it.

          In the time that the ritual was given out, there were few books in English that could explain the pentagram. It was a classic ‘magical sign’ that was drawn in four directions by the operator. Also the mindset of the order, and the people who went through it, was you did what you were told.

          Now let us look at the grade work of the 0=0. The Divine names were not explained. The candidate does not find out what some of them mean until the 1=10. Only the very stupid would NOT realise that the angels were Archangels, but the impact of what a six-rayed star being between the columns would have passed most by. As for colour, the GD was extremely protective of the use of colour in the Outer order and it is extremely likely that the whole operation was monochromatic. It was only in the inner order, when this was developed, that colour became particularly important. Some of this material was leaked out into the outer order. For example we find that in the later Whare Ra temple 0=0s were given black cards with the divine name and the pentagram in colour to stare at to add their visualisation of the ritual.

          So if the 0=0 was largely ignorant of anything to do with the pentagram, and did not know what they were doing what effect could the 0=0 have?

          The outer order is a preparation for the inner work. The actually grade work would give the person considerable ritual experience, but this was not something that they could take home and practise. By giving people a minor ritual and telling them to do it daily or before any meditation work, you were training people in ritual movement, vibration and visualisation. You were also subconsciously repeating the work of the outer order in the microcosm of the candidate on a daily basis. The message of the pentagram, as defined by Paul Foster-Case was ‘I declare the dominion of spirit over the elemental nature’. This becomes the work of the outer order until the person becomes the completed pentagram. If you look at the symbolism of the ritual, you have a candidate standing in the centre of the universe, between two pillars with his or her higher self within the heart centre flanked by four archangels and on all sides a symbol of the dominion of spirit. This is sending a powerful message to the unconscious mind that they are a channel for their spiritual selves. This is exactly the message that the candidate is given through the 0=0 ceremony, the realisation of what it means is also glimpsed in the 2-9 when the candidate sees the completed pentagram in the East.

          In other words what we are seeing with the LBRP is not a clearing exercise, or even an elemental balancing rite but a re-enforcement of the rest of the grade work of the outer order.

          By the time that the candidate has reached the portal they will have added more information about what the divine names mean and in portal they will get the chance to crown that elemental balancing work with spirit. Then the LBRP of the pentagram will carry them through the portal with new energy. However, despite what goes on in modern groups, just because a candidate has seen supreme rituals of the pentagram performed in the Portal, it does not mean that they will have learnt the elemental attributions. In the original GD this was the work of the 5=6. However from a practical point of view it was not needed. When the candidate reached the 5=6 they were given the Rose Cross ritual which performed all the tasks that were assigned to the LBRP.

          Modern derivations

          The idea that the LBRP of the pentagram was mainly used as an exorcism tool, clearing space, or purifying the candidate seems to have arrived later.

          The first reference to a pentagram being used in an exocism is in Flying Roll XXXIV where Brodie Innes uses a pentagram to deal with an earth elemental which was bringing sickness to his wife. However on examination of the case Innes does not perform a LBRP at all and instead invokes the elemental to give it form before blasting it. Innes was also an adept at that point and well capable of using the full versions of the pentagrams Another case is recorded in Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defence where she draws a pentagram between her and an astral creature and vibrates a divine name. Again nothing like the LBRP, although it shows similarities. Later in her book she gives a watered down version of the LBRP as a tool for exorcism but strips it of a lot of its GD symbolism.

          Much of the alchemical and exorcism characteristics of the LBRP seem to have come from Crowley. While it is possible that he got these from Bennett or Mathers it is also likely he got them from his own meditation.

          However Crowley’s use of the LBRP forced him to make some changes to the function of the Rose Cross Ritual. It is from him (and later fortune) that we get the idea that pentagrams light you up on the astral, whereas the Rose Cross Ritual keeps you nicely incognito.

          By the time Israel Regardie appeared on the scene these attributions were being adopted at least outside the existing GD.

          My take on it

          What ever the LBRP started out like, it has become something more. And besides the Golden Dawn tradition is growing. However while I do adopt the ideas below, I am opposed to the LBRP developing in an elemental direction as I think this is confusing for those in the outer order and also does not sit well with the rest of the GD symbolism.

          1.The LBRP creates an energy matrix within which matter is spiritualised. This spiritualisation of the area prevents lower astral beings which cause most of the problems for people from entering. 2. This spiritualisation of space also has an effect on the operator. This, coupled with the symbols being drawn, serve to re-enforce the GD outer ritual.

          3. The ritual makes a statement that ‘I am a spiritual being in charge of the elements? The Rose Cross does the work of the LBRP on the level of Assiah.

          4. The effect of the LBRP is to create a royal blue sphere of energy with a golden hexagram in the middle. The pentagrams can be blue or red – blue is prefered to avoid too much association with Geborah.

          5. The angels work like batteries to the energy of the sphere, they are not elemental as such, but represent divine forces in action at the edge of the operator’s aura.

          6. The LBRP clears physical space before a working and aligns a person to the GD current. It is impossible to use it properly unless you are initiated into the GD system.

          7. When projected onto space, the spiritualisation effect is equal to the ability of the operator to project energy.

          For years the main document for Western Occultism relating to Tantra and the Tattwas has been a book called Nature’s Finer Forces by Rama Prasad.

          It has one downside.  It is so stuffed full of eastern terms it makes it a jolly difficult read for those who want to use this system.

          As an experiment I downloaded a copy from the Internet and started replacing Eastern Words with Western ones.   Sometimes this did cause a lose of original meaning, but in most cases the whole system suddenly revealed itself in symbolism I understood.

          Next up I will be looking through the ‘new’ document to see what needs to be done to work this into a proper system that makes sense to me.

          The downside is of course is that this would be “yet another system” and I am going through a bit of a problem with all that at the moment.



          When I was starting out in occultism, I thought that everything should be as open and public as possible. I looked slightly amused at the secrecy of Whare Ra as an anachronism belonging to a pre-internet age. However now I am starting to question whether or not occultism is suffering from being this public. Not only are we seeing groups being powered by intellectual resources that their leaders do not have, but there are also a bunch of loonies who are being let in. Now your average GD person can range from a good sort to a total mental head case who should not be allowed into the fold. Suddenly on GD sites we are discussing, seriously, the influence of UFOs and men in black on occultism. When I did a piss take, which said that Mathers was an alien and Farr worked for MI5, it was taken seriously.

          The thing is that in the old days these types would never even get the sniff of an esoteric order and the groups they were in had a tremendous power. Likewise the ‘secret’ groups I have been in have had a lot more fraternity and dedication to the system.

          Now we seriously have people suggesting that there should be a common curriculum for GD groups, as if we are like the masons and can do everything the same. Once we could hold together the elitism of an order by a recourse to lineage, secret chiefs or other such methods. These were bogus but they managed to cover everything under a Saturnian shadow. Anyone who knows what I write will know that I tend to think that everything is a system which is a means to an end. Much of the current GD has lost that end and is concentrating on the means. As a teacher if I stop someone progressing up the ladder because they are as mad as a box of frogs or need a to discover something important, I can find myself in trouble. If people past written tests they are considered ok.

          The next result of this is a bunch of adepts who do not do magic, or if they do, do not understand what it is all about. Or are complete and utter loonies. I know that I am eccentric, but I really do not see what this path has to do with all the flaky things that are getting pinned to it, by people who should not be here.

          Now it seems that instead of being in favour of more open occultism, I have started to think that the whole lot should be a lot more closed and elitist.