The Aims and Purpose of our Order
We are told in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, "As below, so above; and as above, so below. With this knowledge alone you may work miracles." Although not a religion, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn holds all religions in reverence and teaches a Hermetic philosophy and science of spiritual development. Our purpose is to assist individuals to awaken and unfold their dormant potential by providing them with the necessary tools to achieve self-realization. This process transforms body, mind, and spirit, and ultimately leads to an entirely new relationship with the universe wherein the experience of duality, ego identity, and the distinction between self and not-self, inner and outer, are completely transcended, resulting in the self-realization of being that One Thing which is the entire universe.
The Emerald Tablet says that "The Moon is the mother and the Sun is the father." This refers to the two cycles of the Hermetic mysteries, the outer and the inner, the lunar and the solar. It also refers to our dual nature as human beings, since we are composed not only of matter from the earth, but also of energy (spirit) from the sun. In the West, we live in societies where material values are encouraged, whereas spiritual values are not. Profane society teaches us that money and material things are the ultimate source of happiness and well-being. Hermetic science teaches us, however, that we not only need to feed our physical bodies but to strengthen and develop our energetic bodies as well.
On the other hand, Hermetic philosophy does not teach that matter or materialism should be despised. The Emerald Tablet says instead: "It arises from the earth and descends from heaven; it gathers to itself the strength of things above and things below." Rather than something to be despised, matter is instead the "prima materia" with which we begin the great work, and the Opus Magnum itself involves both the materialization of spirit and the spiritualization of matter. In terms of values, there is nothing wrong with materialism in itself, but spiritual values must balance and complement material ones.
As profane individuals, we experience ourselves as egos; as separate from the universe. We are full of ourselves and give ourselves far too much importance. We see external reality as something alien, at times even hostile to ourselves. Our self-awareness is extremely limited and distorted by our dualistic relationship with the universe. Egotism, selfishness, greed, jealousy, loneliness- all things of this nature- are all direct results of our limited awareness of ourselves as something other than and separate from external reality. This state of mind causes much suffering.
Our understanding of our self-interests is, of course, completely dependent upon our experience of who and what we are. In turn, our actions are motivated by our self-interests. Thus, as profane individuals, not only our perception of self is completely distorted, but our actions are based on a completely mistaken understanding of our self-interests as well. We blindly entangle ourselves more and more in the webs of duality; a self-created and self-perpetuating delusion. In short...we live a lie.
And yet the universe whispers truth to us constantly. She reminds us, calls us, and allures us, seducing us to see the truth beyond appearances. Each of us has two eyes, two ears, two kidneys, two feet, two hands, and so on, but each and every one of these dualities are all part and parcel of the same, unique body. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes teaches us: "And since all things exist in and emanate from the ONE Who is the ultimate Cause, so all things are born after their kind from this ONE." Hermes Trismegistus is elsewhere attributed as saying "God is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere and the circumference nowhere." Thus, Hermetic science teaches that all of the billions of billions of separate creatures and things as viewed from the dualistic perspective, are in truth beyond appearances all part and parcel of one, single, solitary, gigantic organism which is the entire universe!
Hermetic science gives us the tools that we need to slowly and over time untangle ourselves from our self-spun and self-perpetuating webs of delusion. The Pythagorean tradition views the number three as the number of wholeness. The primal unity of the number one succumbs to duality with the number two. In geometry, the duality created by two points can only be overcome by the addition of a third point, thus creating a triangle of the dyad and reestablishing unity. In the H.O.G.D., this is described as "Two contending forces and one which unites them eternally. Two basal angles of the triangle and one which forms the apex. Such is the origin of creation - it is the Triad of life."
The Emerald Tablet proclaims: "It is for this reason that I am called Hermes Trismegistus; for I possess the three essentials of the philosophy of the universe." This refers to the triad of disciplines upon which rests the entire structure of Hermetic science: astrology, theurgy, and alchemy. Theurgy and alchemy are the right and left pillars of the entrance to the sanctuary of the highest mysteries, and astrology is the capstone which unites them.
Astrology assists us to understand our place in the universe and provides the background before which the Hermetic sciences of theurgy and alchemy can be practiced as tools for self-liberation, self-transformation, and self-realization. Theurgy and alchemy are complementary disciplines and must be practiced together. Theurgy produces primarily a psychic transformation, whereas alchemy produces primarily a physical one. Together they produce a spiritual transformation resulting in lasting self-realization.
In all true Hermetic initiatic systems, the lunar mysteries come prior to the solar ones; each using a different methodology to facilitate spiritual progress. All of us begin our initiatic journeys as profane individuals ensnared in the webs of duality, illusion, and appearances. The techniques we use in beginning our journey are those which are pertinent to our experience of ourselves as egos; as unique beings separate from the universe. These are the "lunar" Hermetic disciplines of external, or outer, theurgy and alchemy. As we progress spiritually, however, our consciousness changes, and so must the techniques we use.
As we approach the consciousness of universal unity, we enter into the cycle of the "solar" Hermetic mysteries. As our self-awareness changes, so must the techniques that we use to progress spiritually. In the solar mysteries, we use the Hermetic disciplines of internal, or inner, theurgy and alchemy. This is not to say that the solar mysteries and the "inner" disciplines are superior or more advanced than the lunar, "external" ones; it is merely a question of using the techniques that are most effective according to changing states of consciousness and self-awareness. Our consciousness transforms as we move away from the paradigm of duality, from the outer Hermetic disciplines to the inner ones- until ultimately the distinction between inner and outer, self and not-self, no longer exists in our self-awareness. Only the consciousness of universal unity remains.
Let the aspirant of the Hermetic mysteries beware, however, for our egos are crafty and subtle, preferring to remain ensnared in duality. There are a thousand ways for our egos to usurp our spiritual quest and corrupt it into just another ego trip: fancy titles of Adepthood, delusions of attainment, "advanced" spiritual practices, leadership roles in occult orders, and many more. All of these things are nothing more than golden, shiny traps to drag us back into the webs duality and illusion.
The Emerald Tablet begins with the declaration "This is true and remote from all cover of falsehood." Thus we must begin our journey by discerning the false from the true, ever wary of self-deception. The higher aspiration of our souls is all too easily seduced back into a dualistic way of seing reality. One extremely dangerous and subtle trap is magick. Theurgy, the right hand of Hermetic science, is a powerful and primary tool for self-liberation. Magick, however, usurps theurgy in the service of the ego, deviating and corrupting it. True theurgy has no other goal than the quest for truth, spiritual transformation, and self-realization. Magick, on the other hand, merely gratifies the ego with power, riches, and other seductive wiles. Whereas theurgy aims to liberate self-awareness, Magic drags it back into duality while gratifying, inflating, and deceiving the ego.
Numerous mystics, magicians and saints have reported experiences of spontaneous illumination wherein the experience of duality, ego identity, the distinction between self and not-self, inner and outer, have been completely transcended, resulting in an experience of being one with the entire universe. Such spiritual breakthroughs have inevitably changed the lives of such individuals forever. Nonetheless, illumination is not the same thing as self-realization. Although duality may be briefly transcended in rare and sometimes even spontaneous moments of illumination, the ability to maintain this unified state of consciousness in full self-realization can only come as the result of long and intense initiatic discipline.
The Emerald Tablet instructs us to "separate the subtle from the gross." As we practice the Hermetic sciences, slowly, over time, almost imperceptibly, our consciousness begins to change. This is a natural process like the growth of a plant, and is visibly evident from the outside. We become calmer and the events of daily life no longer affect us in the same way they once did. We become more detached from appearances and begin to discover more and more subtle aspects of reality and of truth.
The Emerald Tablet says that "By means of this one thing all the glory of the world shall be yours and all obscurity flee from you." Interestingly, the transformation of self-awareness inevitably brings with it a sense of well-being, peace, happiness, and harmony. Having resisted the temptation to allow the ego to usurp and corrupt theurgy into vulgar magick, many good things ultimately come without additional effort.
Thus we may correctly understand that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is not a school of vulgar magick, but a true outer vehicle of Hermetic science and philosophy. As the outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is a school of the "lunar" (outer, external) Hermetic mysteries, teaching primarily external theurgy. The grade system of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, rather than a hierarchy of titles to gratify the ego, is a structured system of Hermetic disciplines for self-realization, deeply rooted in Hermetic science and philosophy. Our initiatic system progresses from the "lunar" (outer, external) to the "solar" (inner, internal) Hermetic mysteries, employing the techniques most effective for self-transformation at each stage of the initiatic journey, until we reach that summit, where "inner" and "outer" no longer exist. In the immortal words of Hermes Tristmegistus, with which he concludes the Emerald Tablet: "Thus, what I have called the solar Work, is complete."