Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Pat Zalewski “The Kabbalah of the Golden Dawn;” Nick Farrell “Gathering the Magic;” Ellic Howe – “The Magicians of the Golden Dawn”

Posted by Mike on April 12, 2007

Managed to finish off three esoteric books in the last few weeks, all of which are of interest in various ways, none of them in particular, except maybe the last title, would be described as beginning work. Pat Zalewksi’s The Kabbalah of the Golden Dawn is of interest mostly because the lineage of the Golden Dawn in New Zealand through the Whare Ra temple is different than most modern lineages that come through the Stella Matutina and Israel Regardie and in some ways it feels a deeper and richer tradition, certainly one that doesn’t have the struggles the Regardie tradition has these days in terms of who “owns” it. As a book, KotGD has something of a scrapbook feel to it in that it mostly reproduces lectures and diagrams related to the order’s take on the kabbalah, many of which are similar to the Regardie lineage. It’s in those places where it diverges where it becomes interesting, including some comparisons between alchemy and the kabbalah that are of interest. I’d probably still suggest Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah or even Regardie’s “The Garden of Pomegranates” as a better introduction, but this goes quite a bit deeper than both.

Nick Farrell’s Gathering the Magic has to be read to be believed, it could be one of the funniest books on esoterica on the market, with an almost Python-esque sense of satire and self-deprecation. Not only funny, it strikes me as eminently wise and even if the book is geared towards individuals setting up their own occult groups, something I’m not doing, its look into interpersonal dynamics and the psychology of groups is priceless. Farrell’s clearly been around a long time, in various groups and has seen them both succeed and derail in various ways and provides advice and warnings in full. And never have you read an esoteric author with such a matter-of-fact tone, we’re saddled with so many writers from different eras, that to hear someone so 21st century was a pleasure. An excellent and fun book.

And speaking of matter of fact, Ellic Howe’s documentary history on the Golden Dawn is probably something everyone should read, and particularly esotericists, as it provides the non-occultic side of the story from someone who has done a brilliant bit of research and has come off with a bit of a sneer at the people who were part of this legendary group. Howe’s access to various treasure troves of correspondance helps to tell the story of the Golden Dawn from its fuzzy and apparently forged beginnings to the break up of the group, in fact one wishes we could send the aforementioned Farrell back in time to give this group of squabbling and somewhat insecure adepts a little lesson in gaining some control over the ego. In fact anyone with the Complete book as provided through Regardie might remember the dire warnings of ego inflation that comes along with working the system, one is continually reminded that such warnings were largely there as a reminder of what happened to the originals. Howe ain’t an occultist by any means and often takes easy shots at some of the people in the book, but these do often tend to make the whole thing less dry and more readable. It’s all a serious reminder that those who take these paths are still human beings in every way, not magical floating gurus in meditation asanas throwing lightning bolts at the profane.

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