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Byways of Esoteric History

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews The Theosophical Enlightenment and Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism and Nazi Survival by Hermetic Library Fellow Joscelyn Godwin in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Godwin The Theosophical Enlightenment

Godwin Arktos

The relationship between modern scholarship and the Hermetic tradition has always been a complicated one, bedeviled by a radical difference among basic assumptions which many writers recognize but few seem to be able to overcome. For every academic work which combines competent scholarship with the imaginative ability to enter into the worldview of the tradition – the writings of the late Dame Frances Yates come first to mind here – there are far too many which fall into the gap between paradigms and never manage to climb back out. The socioeconomic reductionism wielded by several generations of Marxist scholars, the psychological reductionism common to many of the current interpreters of Carl Jung, and other less popular but equally distorting interpretive schemes have stretched and sawed the Hermetic tradition to fit any number of Procrustean beds.

Given this context, the efforts of Joscelyn Godwin to light up some of the byways of recent esoteric history in the West come as a relief and a delight. Two of his most recent books, in particular, unite capable scholarship with a willingness to let his subject matter speak in its own voice.

The Theosophical Enlightenment is, broadly speaking, a history of English occultism from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. That period saw the rise and fall of major esoteric movements such as Mesmerism, Spiritualism, the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and by way of these the origins of most of modern Western occult thought and practice. It also saw a great deal of influence by esoteric traditions on the wider culture of which they were an often unacknowledged part; the figures of William Blake at the beginning of the period, and William Butler Yeats at its end, are only the most visible of many carriers of that influence. An amazing pageant of scholars, scoundrels, mages, crackpots, visionaries and out-and-out lunatics filled the space between these two, and it is this pageant which gives The Theosophical Enlightenment most of its subject matter and much of its charm.

One of the central themes of this study is the extent to which the esoteric systems of that age had their roots as much in the scepticism and critical scholarship of the time as in the older and more credulous traditions of medieval occultism. The highly syncretistic approach which marked Theosophy, the Golden Dawn and similar movements would have been inconceivable without the rise of ideas of comparative religion and mythology during the prior century, ideas which removed Christianity from its privileged position and drew attention to the connections between it and other religious traditions.

Another theme, linked to this, is the complex and ambivalent relationship between Western occultism and Eastern traditions. Materials from Hindu sources in particular were borrowed eagerly by esotericists in the West from the Transcendentalists to Madame Blavatsky, but there was also a reaction against this trend. Both these forces showed themselves in the rise and decline of the Theosophical Society, which drew together most of the esoteric currents of the age into a temporary unity, only to founder when the differences proved too great to bridge.

In the process of tracing these themes and others, Godwin casts light on an entire chapter of the history of Western esotericism which has received too little illumination to date. The Theosophical Enlightenment is likely to become the standard starting point for future explorations in this area.

A second book of Godwin’s, Arktos, carries out the same task of illumination in a far stranger region of thought. The subject matter of this work, the symbolism of the poles in Western occult tradition, has long been a kind of lightning-rod for high strangeness in the cultures of the modern West: one of those subjects where the line between the esoteric and the simply crazed is rarely easy to draw.

It says much for Godwin’s abilities that he is able, for the most part, to present this material on its own terms as well. From polar paradises and pole-shift catastrophes through the hollow earth and similar tabloid fodder, up to the heights of Persian Sufi mysticism and down into the psychotic mythologies of race that lay behind the Nazi phenomenon, Arktos provides a glimpse at a world at least as unexplored as the Hyperborea of legend, and even less easy to map.

In some senses, Arktos is a less satisfying book, if a more intriguing one, than The Theosophical Enlightenment. It is very much a first survey of a broad and highly diverse subject, and a great deal of further work remains to be done to fill in the blank areas and trace out the connections between the different uses which esoteric tradition has made of the poles. (I was mildly disappointed, for instance, to see no mention of the Golden Dawn’s relation of the Earth’s axial tilt to Cabalistic symbolism in Godwin’s book.) Still, it forms an excellent starting place for future study, as well as an example of how material from the fringes of modern thought can be lucidly and intelligently explored.

Robert Fludd

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews Robert Fludd: Essential Readings selected and edited by William H Huffman in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Fludd Huffman Robert Fludd Essential Readings

The work of Robert Fludd (1574-1637), the Paracelsian physician and Hermetic encyclopedist who provided the last major statement of the esoteric traditions of the Renaissance, has been best known in modern times by way of the extraordinary engravings created for his vast Technical, Physical and Metaphysical History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm (1617-1626). These are perhaps the most common visual images of Renaissance esotericism at the present time; ironically, though, Fludd’s own writings have all but vanished into their shadow. Most remain available only in their original editions, mostly in Latin, and the few reprintings and translations that have appeared are scattered through the academic literature.

This book of selections from Fludd’s writings is thus a welcome step in uncovering one of the more neglected figures in the Western esoteric tradition. Huffman, whose Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (Routledge: New York, 1988) is a solid general study of Fludd and his place in Renaissance thought, has assembled writings from most of the periods of Fludd’s literary output – the Apologia Compendiaria, an early defense of the Rosicrucians; a selection from the first volume of the Technical, Physical and Metaphysical History; his Brief Declaration to James I of England, defending himself against charges of heresy; A Philosophical Key, an alchemical work describing experiments on wheat; Truth’s Golden Harrow, a defense of the physical reality of alchemy; Dr. Fludd’s Answer unto M. Foster, in which Fludd supported the Paracelsian position in the weapon-salve controversy; and a portion of Mosaicall Philosophy, Fludd’s last work. Also included in the volume is Wolfgang Pauli’s essay “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler,” which chronicles the dispute between Fludd and Kepler over the respective places of mathematics and mysticism in an understanding of the world, as well as a mostly biographical introduction and a useful bibliography.

There are a few weaknesses to this otherwise solid work. The sheer volume of Fludd’s prose has forced Huffman to prune his selections extensively, and in some places – particularly in the portion of the History reprinted here – the resulting passages are disjointed and difficult to put in their proper context. The selection of writings is also problematical in one sense: the pieces given deal largely with Fludd the theoretician and philosopher; Fludd’s more practical interests in medicine, technology and the arts, interests which fill the greater part of his works, receive far less attention. Amid the sometimes abstract speculations of his esoteric philosophy, it can be too easy to lose sight of the Robert Fludd who introduced new methods of steel manufacture to England and devised one of the earliest barometers.

Despite these quibbles, though, Huffman’s collection is a solid introduction to Fludd’s thought, and a valuable resource for any student of esoteric traditions in the Renaissance.

The Manual of Harmonics of Nicomachus the Pythagorean

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews The Manual of Harmonics of Nicomachus the Pythagorean by Nicomachus of Gerasa, translation and commentary by Flora R Levin in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Nicomachus Levin The Manual of Harmonics

The Manual of Harmonics, an introduction to musical theory by the Pythagorean philosopher Nicomachus of Gerasa, forms part of Phanes Press’ continuing project of publishing important texts in the Pythagorean and Neoplatonic traditions. Music held a central place in Pythagorean thought, as a bridge between the apparent abstractions of mathematics and proportion, on the one hand, and the realm of sensory experience on the other, and an ancient handbook of musical theory from one of the major figures in the Pythagorean tradition is thus a useful contribution.

Nicomachus’ manual itself is a fairly brief document, a summary of basic concepts in ancient musical theory. Lewin’s extensive and able commentary on each chapter, however, goes considerably beyond this, relating the manual to its contexts in musical theory and science, in Pythagorean thought, and in the life and culture of the ancient world. Manual and commentary together form what is quite probably the best introduction available to this subject. The book as a whole is scholarly but accessible to the nonspecialist, and deserves the attention of anyone interested in the Pythagorean tradition or the philosophical and esoteric aspects of music.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Cicero Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition

For more than half a century, the system of magic presented in Israel Regardie’s epochal collection of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn documents, The Golden Dawn, has been essentially the standard method of magical work in the English-speaking world. Most other books on magical subjects borrow from it liberally, to the extent that it’s possible to find works purporting to be about Norse neopaganism (to give only one of many possible examples) which use slightly rewritten versions of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, the Middle Pillar exercise, and similar Golden Dawn technical methods. Some of this borrowing is simple plagiarism, and more is a somewhat less discreditable effort to rework Golden Dawn technique to fit different symbolic, religious and political stances.

Some, on the other hand, derives from the extreme unwieldiness and the sometimes fragmentary nature of the Golden Dawn material as Regardie presented it. The Golden Dawn is more of an archive than a textbook; it’s possible to extract the meat of the Order’s system of training from the husk of knowledge lectures, ritual texts and often rambling documents in the collection, but there’s a good deal of work involved. As a result, there have been a number of attempts to produce an introduction to the Golden Dawn system designed specifically for the beginning student.

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition is the most substantial of these to appear so far. Intended as a complete curriculum of study for the Outer Order work of the Golden Dawn system, it contains solo versions of the grade rituals from Neophyte through Portal, greatly expanded versions of the Order’s knowledge lectures, and additional instruction on topics such as alchemy and astrology. The material for each grade also includes practical exercises and meditations, a reading list, and an examination on the grade teachings.

To describe this book as comprehensive may be an understatement. The Ciceros earned a reputation for thoroughness with their last book, Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, which explored the working tools and equipment of the Golden Dawn system in exhaustive detail, and this new release will do nothing to detract from it. Despite the sheer volume, however, the lessons are well paced and well organized, and should be well within the power of beginners to assimilate; the authors’ experience as chiefs of a working temple shows here.

It should be noted, however, that this book is indeed intended for beginners, and readers who have already worked their way through Regardie’s Golden Dawn and other works on the Order’s system are unlikely to find much new in it. A work of instruction rather than, say, history, it smooths over some of the discontinuities between the original Golden Dawn system and its current form; for example, although a great deal of basic astrological information is given, the fact that the Order had its own distinct system of astrology — a system differing sharply in some respects from the common form which the Ciceros give here — is nowhere mentioned.

Still, these are ultimately issues of genre, not of the work itself. Within the limits of what this book attempts to do, it succeeds well.

Two for Sacred Geometers

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews At The Center Of The World: Polar Symbolism Discovered in Celtic, Norse and Other Ritualized Landscapes by John Michell and The Byrom Collection: Renaissance Thought, the Royal Society and the Building of the Globe Theatre by Joy Hancox in the Caduceus archive.

Hancox The Byrom Collection

The Hermetic traditions of the Renaissance made use, broadly speaking, of three correlated systems in their attempt to comprehend the physical and metaphysical worlds. Two of those forms — magic, the universe expressed as symbol, and alchemy, the universe expressed as substance — have been fairly well known all through the modern Hermetic revival. The third, once known as mathesis and now more commonly called “sacred geometry” — the universe expressed as pattern — received far less attention for many years, although a series of important reprints and new publications in the last decade or so has done a great deal to redress the balance. The two books reviewed here each build, in a different sense, on that foundation.

John Michell’s name is a familiar one not only among students of esoteric geometry but in the wider circles of what might, unkindly, be called fringe studies as well; his seminal The View Over Atlantis (1969) taught most of a generation about ley lines and megaliths. Central to much of his work, though, are ideas of proportion, geometry and numerical symbolism drawn straight from classical traditions of mathesis. These ideas hold center stage in his later works City Of Revelation (1972) and The Dimensions Of Paradise (1988); much of Michell’s work since the date of this latter has focused on the role of sacred geometry in the traditional geography of various ancient cultures.

At The Center Of The World is a part of this project. Beginning with the image of the central hearth (in Latin, literally, focus), Michell goes on to explore the linked concept of the omphalos or world-center as the ritual locus of ancient systems of sacred kingship. He then maps out a series of traditional assembly-places in northwestern Europe, each standing at the geographic as well as the symbolic center of its surrounding region. The canon of numerology and geometry which Michell sees as underlying the whole system is outlined in a final chapter.

One possibly disquieting part of this exploration is Michell’s proposal that the revival of a sacred monarchy and its associated omphalic center be used as a framework for the political reunification of Ireland. The Western esoteric tradition has a long history of becoming entangled in politics, dating back at least as far as Pythagoras, and a great deal of that involvement tends toward precisely this kind of revival of archaic forms; Plato’s Republic and Laws provide the classic examples. In practice, however, the mixing of politics and spirituality tends to debase both (would anyone actually want to live in either of Plato’s totalitarian utopias?), and it’s to be hoped that Michell’s proposals — harmless as they probably are — don’t encourage the direction of more energy down this particular blind alley.

Still, as an introduction to the ways esoteric geometry can relate to the original meaning of the word “geometry” — earth measurement — At The Center Of The World is a good choice; it develops its themes capably, and does so (unlike, for example, much of The View Over Atlantis) using evidence which can be assessed by the methods of the ordinary historian. Those interested in Celtic and Norse traditions will also find it worth reading.

Joy Hancox, the author of The Byrom Collection, is anything but a household name in esoteric circles, and her own contact with the Hermetic tradition came through the unlikely route of local historical research concerning a Manchester farmhouse she purchased. The collection of documents she unearthed in the course of this research, however, deserves much wider attention from esotericists than it has apparently received so far. A set of 516 geometrical drawings of varying shapes, sizes and topics, they may well prove to comprise the single most important body of work involving sacred geometry available in modern times.

The collection apparently belonged to John Byrom, an eighteenth-century Freemason and fellow of the Royal Society, whose accomplishments included the invention of the first phonetic system of shorthand; the sources and earlier history of the documents in it are anyone’s guess, although Hancox makes some plausible speculations in her exploration of the collection and its history. Drawings shown in the book (a small fraction of the total) include Cabalistic and other esoteric diagrams, intricate geometric constructions, and architectural plans — including what are apparently the setting-out plans and elevations for all of the major theaters of Elizabethan London, including Shakespeare’s Globe.

The obvious first question, given something of this scale, is whether the collection is a modern forgery. While a firm answer will have to rely on specialists in the subject, there is at least one point which argues for its authenticity — the fact that Hancox herself seems to have little notion of the meaning and significance of many of the drawings. Her efforts to educate herself about the background of the collection are praiseworthy, and included both academic and esoteric sources; still, scholars and Hermeticists alike will wince at a fair number of the statements and conclusions she makes in the book.

The Byrom Collection nonetheless provides a helpful introduction, both to the collection itself and to the milieu from which it appears to have come. The real value of this book, though, is in its reproductions of the drawings. Most of them are highly legible photographs, clear enough to study in detail, giving the book real value to the practicing sacred geometer.

Something more will be needed, though, if the potential of this remarkable discovery is to be realized. The best of all possible worlds would be a full-size facsimile edition of the drawings, but almost any further publication of (or about) these documents would be a welcome event.

Find At The Center Of The World at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Find The Byrom Collection at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Hamlet’s Mill

Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer reviews Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in the Caduceus archive.

de Santillana von Dechend Hamlet's Mill

The analysis of myth has played a substantial role in Hermetic thought all through the history of esotericism in the West, from the mythological interpretations of Orphic mysticism through the efforts of latter-day alchemists such as Isaac Newton to extract the secrets of the Great Work from classical legends. The same habit of thought persisted in more orthodox scholarship to a much greater degree than is often realized. One thinks of the great nineteenth-century philologist Max Muller and his Solar Myth theory, which condensed all mythologies into accounts of the seasonal movements of the sun, and lost its force in academic circles only when it was shown that, by his own criteria, Muller himself was nothing but a solar myth.

This was, of course, far from the only astronomical reading of myth, modern or for that matter ancient. The relationship between the visible heavens and the theological ones has often inspired interpretations of this sort, and the fact that the same names are given to planets and to gods in so many cultures points to the real potentials of this approach. Still, skies and myths alike can too easily serve as Rorshach blots into which preconceptions are read, and this is especially true when the more rigid sort of one-to-one correspondence is imposed between them.

Both the potential and the risk are pointed up by Hamlet’s Mill, a self-described “essay on myth and the frame of time” by the historians of science Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, now back in print in paperback form. This odd but important work has as its major thrust the idea that myths are, in effect, {39} remnants of the technical jargon of an ancient system of astronomy, with the precession of the equinoxes – the slow wobble of the Earth’s axis that causes the apparent points of equinoxes and solstices to slip backward through the Zodiac at a rate of one sign every 2,000-plus years – as its great discovery. This system is traced through a wide range of mythologies, as well as through other sources, particularly the writings of Plato.

The amount of scholarship brought to bear on this thesis is impressive, on a scale reminiscent of the works of Sir James Frazer. The odd corners of the world’s mythologies are shaken out to show parallels, some of them startling, between mythic figures and events of widely separated places and times; these are then connected, sometimes convincingly, to astronomical phenomena. The mill of the title, to mention just one of the vast array of possible examples, is an image from the same Norse legends that ultimately produced Shakespeare’s melancholic hero, a magical mill which ground out gold in a past age of peace but broke free from its timbers and now grinds out salt in the depths of the sea. Drawing on a wide range of related images, de Santillana and von Dechend identify the mill as the cosmos itself, breaking free of the timbers of the familiar solstitial and equinoctial markers, and show that this identification makes sense of features of the legend which are hard to account for in any other way.

It’s of interest to the Hermeticist, also, that much of their work relies on material that has been central to Western esoteric traditions for many centuries. In particular, Platonic ideas and myths have a central role in their interpretation, and the Pythagoreans also receive attention; “Protopythagorean,” in fact, is their term for the hypothesized source of the ancient astronomy they seek to outline.

Their work has some serious weaknesses as well, and with an almost mythic exactness these are made in the exact image of its strengths. The authors fall afoul of the almost universal failing of the interpreter of myth, and having found a scheme that makes sense of some myths proceed to use it as a universal key to all. Worse, they essentially do not deal at all with the massive historical questions raised by their thesis. If Norse, Iranian, Polynesian and Mesoamerican myths, among others, are all expressions of the same system of astronomy in the same symbolic language – a claim implicitly made by the methodology of the book, and explicitly made in several places within it – what were the channels for this astonishing diffusion of ideas across space and time? And why did these channels not carry more easily traceable kinds of information, such as the techniques of metalworking, to the same far corners of the earth?

A lesser criticism has to do with the organization of the book – or, rather, the lack of it. The authors begin with mythological material from the Hamlet legends, and go on to other related stories without explanation; the first discussion of the astronomical background occurs in an “Intermezzo” after Chapter 4; the {40} basic thesis itself is not made clear until nearly halfway through the book. This is justified by the authors on the grounds that the archaic way of thought being discussed was not itself an organized system, but this begs the question; it’s by no means impossible – in fact, it’s often highly useful – to present unsystematic material in a systematic way.

The approaches opened up by Hamlet’s Mill need to be used with care, then; the book has a brilliance of its own, but that brilliance now and again closely resembles the pyrite-glitter of the crank. Still, it has value to the modern Hermeticist, both for its wide-ranging survey of ancient mythical and astronomical lore and for the stress it places on the cycles of the heavens as a model for mythological and mystical symbolism here on earth.

Find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

Circles of Power

Circles of Power: A Guide to Ceremonial Magic by Hermetic Library fellow John Michael Greer, second edition from Salamander and Sons, available in 2013, supposedly available from Weiser Antiquarian but not appearing in their catalog, may be of interest.

John Michael Greer Circles of Power from Salamander and Sons

“‘When ritual and the relationships of meaning which underlie it are studied and used deliberately … a whole range of possibilities opens up. These possibilities include most of the methods of magic … symbolism and symbolic action — that is, ritual — form the most important elements of the magician’s toolkit. The mastery of ritual thus offers what is probably the single most important way to begin to make use of the immense hidden potentials of human consciousness, potentials which go far beyond the limits most people nowadays place on what it means to be human.’

One of the most prestigious esoteric groups of the Victorian era, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn has been described as ‘a system for perfecting the raw material that is humanity; a system for discovering the Divine Source within, and for seeing it in all things; a system for awakening the consciousness within and uniting with that of the universe itself.’

In Circles of Power: A Guide to Ceremonial Magic, John Michael Greer provides a practical guide to the eloquent and powerful system of Cabalistic ritual magic developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn — arguably the most complete and fully developed of the living traditions of Western magic.

Greer clearly articulates in plain English the nature of Golden Dawn ritual magic; the magical macrocosm and microcosm, and the tools and practice of ritual magic. In doing so, he concisely summarises the foundations of Golden Dawn ritual (such as Invoking and Banishing, the Middle Pillar exercises, and Opening and Closing), the applications of such ritual (including working tools, talismans, evocation, invisibility and transformation, and spiritual development) and the Formula of the Equinox.

Extensively illustrated throughout, Circles of Power features 38 rituals and ceremonies described in detail, plus guidance for the solitary magician and an appendix of cabalistic symbolism.”

The Earth, The Gods and The Soul

The Earth, The Gods and The Soul — A History of Pagan Philosophy: From the Iron Age to the 21st Century by Brendan Myers is due in November 2013 from Moon Books, and may be of interest.

Brendan Myers The Earth The Gods and The-Soul from Moon Books

“Philosophy was invented by pagans. Yet this fact is almost always ignored by those who write the history of ideas. This book tells the history of the pagan philosophers, and the various places where their ideas appeared, from ancient times to the 21st century. The Pagan philosophers are a surprisingly diverse group: from kings of great empires to exiled lonely wanderers, from devout religious teachers to con artists, drug addicts, and social radicals. Three traditions of thought emerge from their work: Pantheism, NeoPlatonism, and Humanism, corresponding to the immensities of the Earth, the Gods, and the Soul. From ancient schools like the Stoics and the Druids, to modern feminists and deep ecologists, the pagan philosophers examined these three immensities with systematic critical reason, and sometimes with poetry and mystical vision. This book tells their story for the first time in one volume, and invites you to examine the immensities with them. And as a special feature, the book includes summaries of the ideas of leading modern pagan intellectuals, in their own words: Emma Restall Orr, Michael York, John Michael Greer, Vivianne Crowley, and more.” [via]

Between the Worlds: An Interfaith Esoteric Conference

Between the Worlds: An Interfaith Esoteric Conference will be held in Wilmington, DE on Dec 13-16, 2012. A number of people you may know from the library are on the presenters list, including Hermetic Library fellows Sam Webster and John Michael Greer, anthology artist T Thorn Coyle, interviewee Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and a number of others not directly connected to the library, but who may be both familiar and of interest, such as Ivo Domínguez, Jr., Anaar, Jason Miller, Christopher Penczak, and more.

“Between The Worlds is an interfaith esoteric conference. It occurs when the stars indicate that such a gathering is needed and favored. The previous BTW’s were held in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2007. This is the 5th in the series.

This conference is known for the quality of its workshops and rituals. This event is intended for those at an intermediate or advanced level in their spiritual and magickal studies.

Remember it is not a yearly event, so don’t miss this opportunity for amazing rituals, deep learning, and dialogue.” [via]

The Celtic Golden Dawn: An Original & Complete Curriculum of Druidical Study

The Celtic Golden Dawn: An Original & Complete Curriculum of Druidical Study by Hermetic Library fellow John Michael Greer is due Feb 2013, published by Llewellyn.



“A century ago, groups decending from the famed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fused the occult lore of the Western magical tradition with the nature spirituality of the Druid Revival. They invoked Pagan Celtic powers instead of the Judeo-Christian names and symbols. Respected occult author and Grand Archdruid John Michael Greer has re-created a complete magical system based on the Celtic Golden Dawn traditions. This new book provides students with a complete curriculum of Druidical magic and occult wisdom, including training in ceremonial magic, meditation, pathworking, divination, geomancy, and herbal alchemy, allowing self-initiation into the three degrees of Ovate, Bard, and Druid. It features spectacular magical techniques for such things as invisibility, etheric shapeshifing, and conjuring spirits.” [via]


Although the book description doesn’t say so, I’ve seen some comments which state this work has to do with the Celtic Revival of William Butler Yeats, and will cover materials related to Yeats’ attempt to create rituals for his Castle of Heroes and a neo-romantic reconstruction of Celtic Mysteries which was his focus for a time. I was curious whether that was the case, so I asked John and he clarifies:

“Since only fragmentary material survives from the Druid/Golden Dawn hybrid orders of the early 20th century — orders such as the Cabbalistic Order of Druids and the Ancient Order of Druid Hermetists — the sole available option was for someone with a solid grasp of Golden Dawn and Druid traditions to reverse engineer a fusion between them. Since I have the qualifications, I decided to give it a shot. The completed system is an original creation of mine, based on my sense of what the study program of such an order would have been like.” — John Michael Greer [via email]