There has been much interest in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn since its inception in the late 19th Century and outward dissolution within a few decades. The mystique and secrecy of the Order, along with its utilitarian magic, its coterie of thespians, its amalgamation from Masonic and other earlier traditions, its appeal to both ancient and modern epistemologies, has hooked a variety of seekers, historians, ideologues, innovators and indeed charlatans through to this day. In a world seeking alternatives to calcifying spirituality and religiosity the Golden Dawn offered a bright new theurgy full of promise, and more amazingly one that women could equally participate in.
Although a primarily a practicum, Peregrin Wildoak’s new book, By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life, is a marvellous compendium that also honours the historical portents of the tradition. Wildoak, never one to pontificate from under the laurels of an Adept, places the Golden Dawn tradition squarely in the time-frame in which it was first manifest. In his book he displays a scholarly understanding of the mystery schools that informed the Golden Dawn, as well as its many offshoot legacies of the 20th and early 21st Century. By Names and Images provides a working study of Freemasonry, Hermeticism, Christian Mystery, Alchemy, the Qabala and the Cipher manuscripts. He faithfully presents the concepts and doctrines as understood by such popular luminaries as W.B. Yeats, Evelyn Underhill, Aleister Crowley, and Dion Fortune. But Wildoak also shows a willingness to grapple with the limitations of the Golden Dawn as often constricted by the Victorian societal mindset, or as following the rather quaint Anglican austerity of a bygone age. He freely acknowledges that the movement has been beset by a sort of protestant-style splintering, one complete with doctrinal wrangling and internal disputes over lineage. And yet his presentation of the movement as a whole is forthright and sincere, seeking what is best and edifiable, yet always allowing for variance and growth between members and their practices. It’s no wonder that Tony DeLuce has called it “the finest introduction to the Golden Dawn system yet penned…”
But the real gift of this volume is the sheer scope and commentary as to what comprises the Golden Dawn’s actual teachings, rituals and practices. While the rituals have been available in published form for many years this book is different in that it explains the inner workings behind them, with clear, practical instructions for how to visualise each step and what its magical purpose is. In that the Golden Dawn is the main source of esoteric wisdom for the Western Mystery tradition today, the impressive ambit of Wildoak’s study will be of immense value for all those who walk in any such paths. It will also provide a wealth of information for non-practitioners simply seeking an intellectual understanding of this storied order and what it offers in a spiritual or cultural sense to the collective whole. By Names and Images yields an in-depth, and at times painstaking, survey of the tradition’s entire oeuvre, taking time to explain, annotate, and graph each image or symbol in terms of resonance and significance. Each section of the book offers a detailed and clear instruction as to both the ritual practice and internal meaning of concepts such as visualisation, meditation, divination, purification, invocation, evocation, initiation, and the experiential planes. The book is a manual that one can return to again and again, gleaning new methods and reverberations each time.
As Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero attest – “Peregrin’s reader-friendly style of teaching displays a joyous sharing of knowledge that demystifies complex teachings, revealing the ‘heart and soul’ of the Work. This book will be a treasured addition to every Golden Dawn magician’s library.” There is no doubt that Wildoak is an emerging scholar in the mystery tradition but his approach is never deliberately abstruse or intellectually vain. He is also very generous in his consideration of other spiritual paths, often pausing to give credence to the analogue practices of differing traditions both past and present. In that sense his work shines with a patina of graciousness and understanding that will endear him to newcomers and inter-faith explorers. By the end of the book the reader is introduced to a tried-and-true connection ceremony that posits no moral grandeur, no final judgment, no authoritative wrangling – just knowledge, community, humility, service and dedication.
Skylight Press is proud to publish By Names and Images as a sizeable volume beautifully illustrated with a series of diagrams and images. We believe it will be an important work for years to come.
By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, or direct from the Skylight Press website.