The Golden Dawn has been rife over the last century or more with various kinds of individual oath breakers. Certainly, Crowley could be considered one of the first, who published the Golden Dawn lore in his periodical "Equinox." Then we have Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, and a host of others. I have to admit that if these individuals had not circumvented their oaths, none of their writings about the Golden Dawn would have been produced. We would have known next to nothing about this secret organization and its precious lore, and there would have been a dearth of popular occultism, paganism, wicca and magick today. Some might have been quite happy if the occult explosion of the last hundred years had not occurred, but I can tell you that I would have been quite unhappy. In fact, the thought of not being an occultist and having my mono-mania of magick to pursue is quite daunting indeed. (Ha! Maybe I need to get a life and stop being such an occult nerd.)
So I can't either blame or condemn any of these occultists for breaking their solemn oath to the egregore of the Order of the Golden Dawn, because I and many others profited from it. However, I can look at what motivated each of these individuals and determine what the driving force was that caused them to take this step. For all of the occultists except Crowley, the reason was selfless. They were driven by the desire to enlighten and inform the public. It doesn't matter too much that the material was given out of context, since it did indeed inform and enlighten many individuals. In fact, it is probably what saved the Order from complete extinction, so perhaps the egregore of the Order was behind these illicit transmissions.
Crowley's reason for publishing the Golden Dawn material was undoubtedly for pure spite. He despised Mathers and the other members of the Order. He also sought to abrogate the lore for his own personal magickal order, and he published some of Mather's manuscripts and passed them off for his own work. However, Crowley also produced his own stellar work and had many great contributions to the study and practice of magick. However, his intentions were not selfless or positive, even though the final outcome did end up being good. I suspect that Crowley got to taste the full bitterness of his betrayal of a powerful order and its egregore, if we attribute his final days to that consequence. We can also just as well believe that Crowley was just being himself to the very end, brilliant, pathological, addicted, profoundly creative, notorious and controversial. Despite his final pitiful days, I think that Crowley would be pleased with the number of occultists today who read and study his works.
Other occultists have published Golden Dawn material - much of it has been in the public domain for quite some time, so I would assume that such material couldn't be part of an oath of secrecy and confidentiality. So for this reason I couldn't condemn someone like David Griffin for being an oath breaker. In fact, I am quite happy that many Golden Dawn initiates have written books for me to read and study. However, where I draw the line is the consideration of the author's motive. Why are they writing about this material when it properly belongs to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Answering that question is very important, as I have already shown in the examples above. If the motive is a selfless desire to inform and enlighten the public, then it must be a positive development, perhaps one that the egregore has sanctioned itself in some manner. If not, then what is revealed is probably not only illicit but against the spirit of the organization.
Nick Ferrell has written a lengthy article that outlines what he thinks is invalid and wrong about the oath of secrecy in the Golden Dawn. There are things that he finds agreeable and things that he doesn't agree with and feels should be changed. That is all well and good, and probably it would be better stated by someone who has never taken that oath than someone who has.
Say you take an oath. Later on you pick it apart to determine which sections are agreeable to you. Those you agree with, you follow, the rest you ignore. Does that make any sense at all? It seems kind of fast and loose to me. It's almost like getting your driver's license and then deciding which traffic laws are relevant and which ones can be broken. A lot of drivers get away with ignoring some traffic laws, like coming to complete stop at a stop sign, but sooner or later either a traffic cop or an accident will force them to change their mind.
I believe that if you make an oath, it doesn't matter how ridiculous it is, or whether you can obey some parts of it and ignore others. If you don't respect the oath as a whole, then picking it apart will only completely undo it. In other words, if you can't respect any part of an oath, then you have no business taking it in the first place.
Confidentiality is, preeminently, the most important part of an oath. Yet confidentiality extends beyond just the names, addresses and personal characteristics of the members of the organization. It is also includes the daily business and personal interactions of the group, the magick they are jointly working, the rituals and lore that they use, group politics and interactions - all of this is strictly confidential. If materials are not already in the common domain, then they shouldn't be published except without proper authorization from the organizational heads.
I wouldn't like it if some clown in my local magickal temple decided to publish the group's rituals and activities without telling the whole group about it and getting our consent. Maybe someone might have good reasons to publish confidential or unpublished information, but if their reasons are good and if they took an oath to retain all such information as confidential, then they need to ask permission and get approval. In our order, such approval is strictly limited to the local temple, and then it is by full consensus. These are matters of ethics, and anyone who is in a formal group should take them quite seriously.
Here is an example of the oath of ethics taken by an initiate of the first degree (Neophyte) in the Order of the Gnostic Star. I can share this information with you because it has been available on the internet for the past several years.
"I "in the presence of the Lords of the Universe, who work in silence and whom none but silence can express, in this temple of the most high and holy Graal (Isis-Sophia). By the order E. S. S. G. do of my own free will solemnly promise to keep secret this order, its members, its rituals and proceedings. To undertake a benevolent revelation with all the fratres and sorores of this Order. To reveal to no one except the initiates of this order the rituals, ceremonies and documents of this order. That I shall never debase my mystical knowledge in the labor and service of negative magick at anytime nor under any temptation. If I should break this sacred vow, my soul stands before those powers conjured in this sacred place to judge my actions."
Does taking this oath mean that the rituals and documents of the Order must remain inviolable secrets? No, actually, it doesn't. It means that a member of a temple of the Order must keep in confidence all that occurs within it, to protect the members and the workings that they are undergoing. The rituals are not what is kept confidential - only the ritual lore of the temple. There is an important distinction here that should be understood. I usually make certain that prospective members understand the nuances of this oath, but often, I find such an explanation to be superfluous, since it's so obvious what is being kept confidential.
Thus I would never take an oath that I didn't wholly believe in and follow to the end, and I would obey an oath that I took to the fullest possible definition. This is what is expected of occultists, and there is an important reason for behaving in this manner. That reason is rather mysterious at first glance, but if you think about it, it becomes more evident. If you break your oath with a spiritual or magickal organization, then you set up a powerful wave of negativity, distrust and dissonance that has a subtle but powerful over-all impact. If it is egregious and based purely upon one's own lust for power and self aggrandizement, then it will cause a permanent disconnect from the egregore of that organization.
Once such a breakage occurs, as a kind of willful sundering, then it becomes more difficult for any other doors or future possibilities to open for that person. If they have left a bad group, then there is no blame. If not, then they are culpable. If we consider that there are possible higher levels of spiritual and magickal development that are neither in print or held by any known organization, then its possible that such lore would be in the hands of individuals who have achieved the highest level of spiritual and magickal attainment in this world. These individuals would very likely judge an oath breaker as not trustworthy for the greater lore, thus he would be overlooked even if his achievements were monumental.
As far as the Golden Dawn is concerned, a branch or a temple may be bad or corrupt, however, the egregore is still a powerful and positive vehicle in the spiritual and magick world. An oath made in that temple is to the egregore, not to the temple hierarchy. Violations of that oath will be measured against the good and the harm that such an action has caused. The intent of the violation must also be weighed, and that should indicate whether someone meant to do it for the greater good, or did it for ego or spite.
Nick has bragged that when he published an ebook version of the "Book of the Tombs", a document that hadn't ever been published before, he managed to single handedly silence a dispute between two warring factions of the Order that were fighting over the disposition of the Vault of Adepti. The vault is a chamber device that is used in the inner order to conduct intensive forms of magick and initiation, which the document outlined in detail. Supposedly, the two groups then ceased their bickering when they managed to review the original dimensions and qualifications of the vault. Of course, that's his opinion, we can just as easily assume that they were silenced by his audacity and outraged at his illicit actions.
I believe the real issue is Nick's cavalier attitude to the very organization that taught him magick and revealed to him the inner mysteries. What is Nick's intention but his own self aggrandizement, which is in a word, "ego." Nick seeks to make himself a great man at the expense of the egregore of the Order that took him into its bosom. That makes him not only an oath breaker, but a real blackguard as well. Nick seems to be ruled by his piratical rapaciousness for secret occult lore, which he turns around and publishes, all for the greater glory of himself. He seeks not to inform the general public, but instead to promote himself as an authority and a master of secrets. In declaring himself to be an oath breaker, he has shown the world that he can't be trusted, and has unwittingly slammed the door on any future transmission of even greater occult lore. Potential higher adepts would never consider him as a colleague, and who in their right mind would want to have that option negated?
I don't feel impressed by what Nick has done, instead I feel sorry for him. Who could ever trust this man with their lore or their mysteries? However you attempt to spin this dilemma, an oath breaker is just that, an oath breaker. It's someone who betrayed the trust that other individuals placed in them, all for the greater glory of themselves.
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