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Authors: Robert A. Wilson

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Sir John’s heart leaped; he knew that those pyramidal dots represented, in occult symbology, an order possessing the original Mason Word, admittedly lost to all other Freemasonic orders. He recalled from the anonymous
Muses Threnody
of 1648:

For we be brethren of the Rosy Cross

We have the Mason Word and second sight

Things for to come we can see aright

With trembling fingers, Sir John opened the pamphlet and began to read the secret history of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1875, it said, a great fire destroyed Freemasons’ Hall in London. Robert Wentworth Little—a writer whose books on Masonry were familiar to Sir John—found some long-forgotten documents, while rescuing important charters and other items of value from the flames. These mysterious papers were in a cipher unknown to Little or any other London Freemasons of the time. By dint of continuous, meticulous effort and perseverance, Little eventually solved the cipher, decoded the documents, then found himself in possession of the secrets of the Invisible College—secrets which orthodox Freemasonry had long since lost. The documents also provided a link with a continental order which seemed to possess even deeper secrets and provided the address of a high initiate named Fräulein Anna Sprengel in Ingolstadt, Bavaria.

The lection went on to tell how Robert Wentworth Little and various other London Freemasons, guided by Fräulein Sprengel, began the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, originally admitting as members only those who were already high-degree Masons. Using the techniques learned from Miss Sprengel and the ciphered documents, they gradually recreated the whole working repertoire of Cabalistic occultism underlying the Rosy Cross order of Freemasonry and sought earnestly to establish astral contact with the Higher Intelligences on other planes who could gradually educate and guide them in the risky transition from the domesticated apehood of historical humanity to a higher stage on the evolutionary scale.

This “History Lection” went on to assert that such contact had been established and that the Golden Dawn was now operating under astral guidance. It added ominously that students should beware of several impostors who had seized upon the name of the order and were operating false Golden Dawns of their own devoted to diabolism and black magick. Among these heretics, who seemed to number nearly a dozen—when the original Golden Dawn split into factions, it split violently, Sir John gathered—two names particularly struck Sir John because of their resonant roll: MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley.

Q: Was the resonance of these names an accident?

A: It was not. The former individual had been born Samuel Liddell Mathers and had decided, when embarking on the paths of Magick, that Samuel Mathers, Sam Mathers, S. L. Mathers, S. Liddell Mathers were all unsuitable and unglamorous names for a Magician; he had therefore taken the more sonorous cognomen of MacGregor Mathers. The latter individual, similarly, had been born Edward Alexander Crowley and found also that the various permutations of that appellation were too prosaic for the career he
intended; after profound research and much thought he concluded that the name “Jeremy Taylor” was the most memorable in English because of its rhythm. Wishing to appropriate that rhythm, he re-dubbed himself Aleister Crowley.

Q: Quote a standard reference on the history of the Golden Dawn so as to convey maximum information without exceeding the legal limits of fair usage and with least possible prejudice toward one faction or another.

A: “The Golden Dawn was the most influential of the many occult secret societies founded in the nineteenth century. It first came into existence in 1887-88 and was founded on the basis of certain cipher manuscripts allegedly discovered in London which described five rituals of initiation…. Early in the 1890s, however, the nature of the Golden Dawn was transformed by one of its leaders, S. L. MacGregor Mathers, who claimed to have contacted the ‘Secret Chiefs,’ the invisible and highly evolved superhumans who form, occultists aver, the secret government of our planet.” Francis King, Introduction to
Crowley on Christ
, C. W. Daniel Co., London, 1974.

Q: Provide further information on the origins of the tradition of mystical Masonry.

A: “However, the Egyptian Masons are more closely involved with the Grand Orient Lodge of France … which was originally set up by Weishaupt’s Illuminati, and which is closely associated with the Society of Jacobins…. One secret Illuminatus and Jacobin was Guiseppe Balsamo, alias Cagliostro, who … bequeathed certain MSS. to his followers of the Egyptian sect, including excerpts from the original
…. The text of the
… reached them via the Arabs of Spain … goes back to the Persians … and links up with Babylonian magic and the Hermetic tradition of the Egyptian priesthood of Thoth.” Letter from Dr. Stanislaus Hinterstoisser to Colin Wilson,
The Necronomicon
with commentaries, Neville Spearman Co., Suffolk, 1978.

Sir John reflected on the “History Lection” for two days before deciding how much further he dared go. Then he wrote back to Jones and begged admission to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as a Probationer.

And so he crossed the thrice-sealed door and passed over from being a student of occult history to being a tentative and nervous practitioner of occult arts, wherein he was soon to learn that we are in fact such stuff as dreams are made of, and that Sir Talis is inescapable.

Sir John was initiated on the night of July 23, 1910—exactly 307 years to the day after the knighting of Sir Francis Bacon, the alleged Grandmaster of the Invisible College in Elizabethan England (according to Golden Dawn documents—which also claimed such illustrious members as Sir Richard Francis Burton, Paul Gauguin, Richard Wagner, King Ludwig of Bavaria, Wolfgang von Goethe, Adam Weishaupt, Dr. John Dee, Pope Alexander VI, Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, Christian Rosenkreutz, Giordano Bruno, Jacques de Molay, Newton, Beethoven, Merlin, Rabelais, Vergil, Jesus, Buddha, Lao-Tse, Solomon, Osiris and Krishna, among others). About the initiation itself, Sir John, true to his Oath, never revealed any details, even on that night in Zürich when, with the
witch-wind beating at the windows, he recounted his extraordinary adventures to James Joyce and Professor Albert Einstein. Some veils shall never be lifted; Babcock would not lift that particular veil.

    Three nights after the initiation, Sir John experienced it over again, in the form of another hermetic dream. He was being led, blindfolded, to the throne of the South where opens the window of the Silver Star in night’s roaman indigo.

“Who comes here?” asked the Gordean, Sir Francis Bacon.

“One who seeks the Light,” Sir John replied, according to the traditional Masonic formula explained to him before the ceremony.

“Humankind cannot bear very much Light,” said Nightrix in a watery voice. “Look upon what little you domesticated mammals are presently prepared to receive.”

There was a spouter inn the weib and Sir John found himself back again at the Tower Struck By Lightning. Sir Talis, a gorged hairyman, was counting out his honi. Sir Joan crept past ovaseer Peep parsing as somndreamist and found hirselves in a vast humming hive (decliner flying, mythra o vid: what a man dasn’t shame) where madmen struggled frantically to kill each other, cursing and screaming, “You will, whisker, you will!” and clutching daggers gats dirks goaters and broken bottle shards, uttering vowelth, muttering foulth, as all sank into dank, dark blood-red fetid moonslime. “Kid goaters!” they howled. “And that the Vril is strong!” A medieval scroll was unrolled, Indie, Norse, Russian, Irish, veryvery long but veryvery dutiful, saying:


Sed, the whole’s arpent of entry, a muddy murky leaky John, pressed cowrin throngs upon him, shrieking, “Fear the forgotten!”

“These,” said Nud the Allmousey (Eutaenius Microstemmus) in eagulls clause, “are those who came this way without the Cup of Sympathy. Each imagines all the others to be terrifying demons and thinks he acts only in self-defense. Tragic, and ironic, is it not?”

Sir John awoke with a start.

“Suffering Christ!” he said, without any profane intent. Was that dream a vision of how humanity looked from the viewpoint of an Illuminated mind?

“A real initiation never ends,” Jones had said cryptically, before the physical-plane initiation. Sir John understood: the dream, in its own language, was indeed a continuation of the initiation, but on another plane. Even the masks used in the actual ceremony were now, in the light of the dream’s clear message, an allegory, not a mere bit of theatrical mummery. The masks worn in ordinary life are psychological, not cardboard, but nonetheless serve to hide each from his fellows; Society is the Devil’s Masquerade.

When Sir John met next with Jones at the latter’s home in Soho, the dreams of the Dark Tower were discussed at length and Sir John proudly exhibited his decoding of their symbolism, especially the allegory of the masks.

“True enough,” Jones said. “But it is also a rule of our Order that nobody in it ever knows personally any more than one other member. The masks used in initiations help enforce that rule.”

“And what, pray, is the purpose of that?”

“Mars is the patron god of all societies,” Jones said grimly. “Competition smashed the first Golden Dawn lodge in London. Everybody
everybody, so we all fell into transcendental egotism—‘my Illumination is higher than your Illumination,’ that sort of thing—and the Devil of Disputation drove us apart. We don’t repeat any of our mistakes, Sir John. From here on, except for very special emergencies, perhaps, you will meet nobody else in the lodge but myself, until somebody higher up replaces me as your teacher. If we don’t know one another, we can’t fall into rivalries.”

This radical decentralization was a double-edged device, Sir John soon realized. Not only was he spared the waste of time and energy that might have been spent wondering if he were progressing faster or slower than another student, but the mystery created by this lack of sociability had a subtle and new effect on all his perceptions of other human beings.

At first, he would merely wonder, if somebody made a remark that seemed more insightful than usual, “Could it be … is he one of us, too?” Was Shakespeare in the Invisible College? The head waiter at Claridge’s?
Just how many members were there?
It was impossible to get a literal answer out of Jones about this. “The question itself implies a Probationer’s ignorance about the true nature of Space and Time,” was all Jones would contribute on that subject. Sir John began to wonder, every time he read the familiar newspaper yarn about a person rescued from danger by a Mysterious Stranger who immediately vanished without accepting thanks or leaving his name. “Another of us?” Sir John would speculate romantically, seeing the protective hand of the Great White Brotherhood everywhere. Of course, as a Cambridge graduate, he had imbibed, at least by osmosis, something of modern skeptical scholarship, and he knew all this might be mere infatuation with a wonderful myth.

But, on the other hand, one could not expect to be provided with special spectacles allowing the members of the Invisible College to see each other, could one?

And the enigma of hermetic societies was more subtle than that, Sir John was to discover. The Golden Dawn, after all, was allegedly continuing the unbroken tradition of the original Invisible College of the Rosy Cross, whose members “wore the garb and adapted the manners” of the country in which they resided. Sir John soon found that even the most inane remarks or offensive behavior would trigger the same question:
of us?” How many Adepts might there be, traveling about in the guise of ordinary humanity, carefully hiding their advanced state behind a masquerade of socially normal stupidity or conformity? Jesus allowed Himself to be spat upon, whipped, mocked and crucified; the Golden Dawn literature made it abundantly clear that a true Adept might play any role or suffer any humiliation in order to accomplish
his or her special Work: The Fool may be The Magus in disguise.

Sir John was simultaneously devouring tons of mystical literature from all nations and all ages, dumped on him ten volumes at a time by Jones. Written examinations once a month determined that he understood, at least verbally, what he read.

“But I am a Christian,” Sir John protested once.

“Nor do we wish to make you any more or less than that,” Jones replied. “But to progress in the Great Work, you must become aware of the invisible truth behind the visible paraphernalia of all religions. In our Order, the Christian may remain Christian, the Jew Jew, the Moslem Moslem, as it may be, but whatever their faith, they may
remain narrow-minded sectarians.”

Sir John began to understand this ambiguous ecumenicism a bit while studying a text on Buddhism. The refrain, “Everyone you meet is a Buddha,” began to drive him to despair; it was so nonsensical; it was repeated so often, in so many different ways; it was obvious that he would have to understand it before he began to comprehend what Buddhism was all about. He, therefore, at Jones’ suggestion, tried to
the Buddha in everyone he met—and then he understood quickly.

BOOK: Masks of the Illuminati
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