"Sex and the Golden Dawn"

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"Sex and the Golden Dawn"

Post  Khephra on Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:15 pm

From Mishkan ha-Echad:

Sex is a controversial subject no matter where it arises, but doubly so when it is relation to a secret society. It is well known, for example, that some of the higher grades of the OTO give teachings on sexual magic, but it is a cause of some debate about how sex is dealt with, if at all, in the Golden Dawn. There has been much misinformation and confusion, partly due, in my opinion, to one modern Golden Dawn order which has included Third Order grades and filled them with sex magic teachings. Some of the confusion may have arisen before this, however, from certain statements and actions taken by some Order members.

But first, let us look at MacGregor and Moina Mathers, the two leading forces in the Order once Westcott had resigned. While they were married, they never consummated the marriage, and never engaged in sexual activity whatsoever (or, at least, so it is claimed). In 1895 Moina wrote to Annie Horniman about her views on sex, the sexual abstinence she and her husband undertook, and the concept of incubi and succubi:


"When I first heard this theory it gave me a shock, but not such a horrible one as that which I had when I was young, about the human condition. Child or no, a natural thing should not upset one so. I remember that my horror of human beings for a while was so great that I could not look at my own mother without violent dislike - and loathing.

I have always chosen as well as 'SRMD' to have nothing whatever to do with any sexual connection - we have both kept perfectly clean I know, as regards the human, the elemental, and any other thing whatever.

I have tried, and I think succeeded, never to allow myself to think of any subject in that direction."

- Moina Mathers

I think it is fairly clear here that Moina was very much ingrained in the prudish Victorian society in which she lived, as were many of the members of the Order (I was recently told that masturbation made Yeats feel ill, for example), while some, such as Florrence Farr and Aleister Crowley rebelled against it. It is obvious, however, that Moina heavily disliked the notion of sex with entities, and, indeed, any sexual relations whatsoever. I think this is rather clear in relation to sex magic. It is not quite certain if Mathers shared his wife's views to such an extreme, but he seemed to respect her wishes, and they both came to a mutual decision to avoid sex. How, therefore, could a couple who refused to have sex espouse sexual teachings in their Order (that is, other than the sexual symbolism of polarities)? I can state with absolute certainty here and now that sex was never a topic for discussion in Order papers, and sex magic was never a practice engaged or taught in the Order, no matter what grade. There are, of course, some Cromlech Temple papers, such as Aura Paper 23, Concerning Sex on the Aura, but these are not technically Golden Dawn material.

Dion Fortune came into conflict with Moina when she published a book dealing with certain sexual principles. Her own account of the conflict states that "[Moina] turned me out for writing The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, on the grounds that I was betraying the inner teaching of the Order". I believe that this statement (and the original ones made by Moina, as well as similar letters to Case on the same subject, not to mention the Horos scandal, where the Horos couple falsely claimed to be leaders of the Golden Dawn, thereby associating their sexual deviancies with the Order) has given some people the intimation that sex magic is employed in some of the higher grades of the Golden Dawn, but again this must be refuted on two grounds: 1) the complete lack of any such papers dealing with the subject, in any of the grades; and 2) the attitude to sex taken by the Mathers.

I made the point above that it is unclear if Mathers shared the extremity with which his wife viewed sex, and I believe the following should make it clear that he did not. He was always espousing the belief that one's private life lay outside the temple, and this included sex. He initiated Crowley when the latter was refused initiation by the other Adepts, with one of the causes of the refusal being his sexual promiscuity (and possibly his bisexuality). Crowley is notorious for his attitude to sex, so it seems unusual that Mathers would not berate him on it if he believed it to be an issue. But he did not, as it was Crowley's private life, part of the outer personality that was to be left at the door when one entered the temple.

But there was one person in the Golden Dawn who did receive a berating by Mathers on the matter of sex, and this was Dr. Edward William Berridge (Frater Resurgam). He became entangled in some sexual issues within the Order, promoting the sexual theories of T.L. Harris and making some advances on the female members of the Order while in temple. Annie Horniman and a few others complained about him, and Mathers was forced to demote him from his office as Sub-Imperator and finally to suspend him from both Inner and Outer Orders for a period of 3 months, once he was seen to be gloating over Horniman's prior dismissal.

Waite noted the following about Berridge:


"My information was full of iniquities of Resurgam and told a strange story concerning a Nurse Graham, brought in, I think, by Soror Mystica, whom he visited continually. He boasts of his astral intercourse with a counterpart or affinity in the astral world, by whom he has had three spirit children."

This was not the only reference to such, as there was a curious reference to "elemental marriage" in a letter from Mathers to Horniman, where he stated:

"[Regarding Soror] Amore - she was recommended Elemental marriage because of in her case the extreme danger of invoking an incubus instead of a Fay through want of self-control."

It is not clear what is meant here by "elemental marriage" or what occured with Mrs. Carden (Sr. Amore), but this is one of the very few mentions of sexual practices in relation to the astral world. For the most part, most of the members of the Order progressed through their gradework perfectly happy to leave their sex lives at home, as most of the members of the modern Golden Dawn Orders are content to do likewise. Some will continue to argue that the Golden Dawn teaches sex magic, either as an attempt to discredit the Order or as an attempt to bring sex magic into the Order on a basis that has never existed, but at the end of the day there is no backing to these speculations whatsoever.

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Khephra

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