The Great and Holy Beach Ball

If you read P. D. Ouspensky and G. I, Gurdjieff you’ll find that a chunk of the Fourth Way practices entail visualization techniques. Taken superficially, these practices resemble the sort of things going on around the Golden Dawn. However, once we pass beyond a cursory examination of them, they appear quite different. The Golden Dawn seems to have treated the visualizations as a vehicle while for the Fourth Way system it served a kind of mental calisthenics.

The differences can be seen clearly enough in the sorts of visualizations. While the Golden Dawn sorts of practices emphasized symbolic (i.e., water as a symbol of  emotion and nourishment) elements, the Fourth Way emphasized abstract and geometric elements for theselves. Obviously, these two branches aren’t entirely disparate. The tree of life as the Golden Dawn portrayed it was pretty darn abstract and geometrical, though if you read Dion Fortune’s pathworkings for it, you’ll realize that the primary means of accessing those forces were through symbolic meditations.

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The Magic Wand of W. B. Yeats

If for some reason you have not yet wandered through this delightful online exhibition on Yeats, you really ought to, if for no other reason to take a look at some of the occult paraphrenalia on display there. My favorite piece, tucked in the bottom of the Golden Dawn case in the Celtic Mystic section of the exhibit, is Yeats’s magic wand. In all its glory, it looks like nothing so much as a crudely painted chair leg or, perhaps, a bedpost. Yes, this is what the great poet of Irish nationalism, mystic and sage, brandished for his magical rites.

I don’t mean that admiration in an ironic way; there’s something humane, silly, and charming about the wand. It also makes clear to me just how quirky the Golden Dawn was. It talked a good game, no doubt, adopting all kinds of elitist jargon and expectations, but when it comes right down to it? Painted chair legs, baby.

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