Today I am presenting my interview with Samuel Scarborough. He is a contributing editor for the "Journal of Western Mystery Tradition" and also writes for the magazine "Hermetic Virtues". A senior member of the Ordo Stella Matutina, a modern Golden Dawn order that carries on the work of the original Stella Matutina, he currently resides in North Carolina. His esoteric interests lie in both practical and spiritual alchemy, tarot, astrology, Golden Dawn, Qabalah, ritual magick, and Hermetisim.
My personal experience with Sam is of a man who is not only kind and generous, but absolutely knowledgeable in his craft. Not only does he have a firm understanding of the Golden Dawn, but he also exudes its true nature in his attitude about life and in his correspondence with others. Unfortunately, this interview is only a small sample of what he has to offer the community but I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed making his acquaintance. So, without further ado...
Golden Dawn Interview With Sam Scarborough
FSO: How would you describe spiritual growth in the GD system?
SS: Like the growth of a tree. Slow and steady. The seeds for spiritual growth are planted in the very first ritual work and studying the First Knowledge Lecture. It slowly grows as you do the Work and advance through the grades. Doing the Work and fully integrating the energies that are raised from the initiations and work nurtures that first seed in my opinion.
FSO: When you first began studying the Golden Dawn were there certain changes in personal growth that you expected to see? Where these accomplished? If so, how quickly after being initiated?
SS: There were changes that I expected to see, but in the beginning I was a bit naïve and had lots of preconceived ideas about what I should expect. I thought that I could summon wind, control the physical elements, and other things which were a bit “Hollywoodisms”. Eventually, I learned that those sorts of things were not what the Work was truly about. It was about balancing out those parts of yourself so that you are more balanced and can draw closer to your own Divine Nature. Once I got this through my head, I began to see that I needed to work on things like being lazy, or daydreaming too much, or a volatile temper.
Over time and with very hard, diligent work through the Outer Order Grades I slowly began to fully integrate the positive aspects of the various elements into myself, and began to overcome being lazy, daydreaming too much, etc.
I did wind up overcoming lots of those shortcomings once I had identified them, but have found that it is a continuing job to keep them up and deal with the new issues that arise from doing the Work within the Golden Dawn.
None of those negative traits of laziness, daydreaming, or temper just “magically” disappeared because I had been initiated – instead I had to work at overcoming them as they were brought to my conscious attention through the grade material and the energies of the initiations themselves. In fact, I find that I must constantly work on myself to improve, plus the longer that I do the Work the more new issues arise that have to be worked through and overcome. There has been no set time frame from initiation to overcoming a negative trait for me and I presume that it is a different time frame for each person that works through the Golden Dawn System.
FSO: LOL. Well outside of not being able to shoot fire balls have you had what can be described as “peak experiences” of consciousness while doing magic or as an effect of magic, for example unified consciousness, one-pointed awareness, out of body experiences, levitation, etc…if so could you please describe a meaningful one? Have you found these to be common within people who study magic and the Golden Dawn?
SS: When it comes to my personal Work I mostly adhere to the concept of Tacere – "to be Silent" – in relation to it, but I have had a couple experiences of heightened consciousness from performance of specific rituals and to some degree in acting as an officer for initiations.
One experience that I will share though came about when performing the Middle Pillar Exercise with a full "Circulation of the Body of Light". I had been performing the "Four-fold Breath" in preparation to performing the "Middle Pillar". I began the visualizations and appropriate vibrations (vibrating the Divine Name as many times as there are Hebrew letters in the Name). I went through the whole "Middle Pillar" and then began the "Circulation of the Body of Light".
During the final “fountain” portion of the "Circulation of the Body of Light" I had this experience of snapping away from my body through my Kether-Galgalim and rising above the shower of light towards that infinite point far above myself. It was exceedingly peaceful and very comfortable – almost as if I belonged there rather than in my own body. The moment seemed to last forever as I lost track of time and to some degree, of space. Luckily at some point I sat down or else I think I would have fallen down in my ritual space. In any event I finally returned to myself feeling more relaxed and calm (peaceful) and realized that an hour and a half had passed since I had started the Middle Pillar.
In my experience there are a lot of moments similar to what I described above. Everyone experiences something at some point in their Work, especially if they are diligent and sincere in what they are doing. I do not think mine is a common experience, but things similar occur for a sizable portion of those doing the Work to not be “uncommon” at least.
FSO: Are there any particular techniques in the system that you believe are absolutely necessary to master for personal and spiritual growth?
SS: The "Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram", meditation, and the "Middle Pillar" ritual are absolutely essential elements that need to be mastered for personal and spiritual growth. I am not talking about just blindly following the material and just performing these things, I am talking about in reality experiencing these rituals and meditations; making a genuine connection with the forces that are generated through the performance of these. Couple with these a full understanding what these basic rituals and meditations do, and you will be well on the way to mastering yourself and growing in a positive manner.
FSO: What types of personal changes should someone expect to see when learning the Golden Dawn tradition?
SS: This is something of a loaded question. In a lot of ways this sort of question can set up preconceived ideas of what to expect and when certain things should occur from working the Golden Dawn system. There are some things though that everyone who is looking at beginning to work in the Golden Dawn system should realize, and this is that there is a lot of hard work. Like anything else, the more you commit to doing the work and actually do the work as outlined, the bigger the rewards will be. Hopefully, through doing the various exercises and grade work, a person should balance out most (if not all) of those negative traits that they do not like about themselves. This takes serious, hard work to accomplish though. In addition, the energies generated from the initiations and the work will need to be fully integrated into yourself. Again, this takes hard work, but the Golden Dawn system provides a solid framework to accomplish this sort of thing.
FSO: It seems many mystical traditions throughout the world have similarities in mystical experiences, as well as ones that are primarily within their tradition…how would you describe the spiritual experience of the Golden Dawn?
SS: The spiritual experience for me within the Golden Dawn has been one of slow illumination and self examination. The symbol set that is used within the Golden Dawn helps to fully integrate the specific energies into the Self- this is especially true during the Elemental Grades in the Outer Order. The principle thing is that each of the Elemental Energies from the Outer Order Grades must be fully incorporated into a person’s sphere of sensation. Once they are incorporated, then the person must balance these forces out so as to achieve equilibrium. This process is rather alchemical in nature, particularly in the spiritual sense (that is through mediation and working with the diagrams and symbols related to a particular grade ) rather than from practical alchemical means (the use of a physical laboratory to produce results in flasks, etc.).
FSO: What have you found the biggest pitfall in the Great Work and what advice do you have to give about overcoming it?
SS: There are several big pitfalls in working towards the Great Work. Taking yourself too seriously is obviously one. The Great Work is serious business and the Work is hard, but that does not mean that you have to think of yourself as always right or not laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. And make a mistake we all do, since we are still human and prone to making them. Take the time to enjoy life and your mistakes. Laugh at yourself, especially when you start taking yourself too seriously. You are not the center of the universe and you are not yet god.
Ego is the other seriously big pitfall that plagues those that are striving towards the Great Work. To begin with a magician (a person doing the Great Work) needs a strong ego just to try to reunite with the Divine. The problem is that too many of us doing the Great Work have strong egos that are not balanced but which run rampant. Many people fall into this trap of being “right” or having such-and-such title or degree, or that because we have such-and-such degree, we obviously know more and thus must be correct.
My biggest advice is to try your best to maintain a healthy balanced ego. Learn how to moderate yourself and to examine all your words and actions to see if they are egotistical. Also, go get therapy from a professional therapist or psychologist. Things come up in the course of the Work that you may miss that may feed our egos or other aspects that we are working on through the grade material. It helps to have an unbiased professional to advise you through those trouble spots and to keep us grounded.
Another piece of advice is to work with a solid group of well grounded magicians – a local temple or Order that has members that are rooted in common sense.
FSO: Some people believe the Golden Dawn can be tailored to anyone, do you believe it is for everyone, or do you think it is really for the niche, ceremonial magician?
SS: I am something of an elitist. I believe that the Golden Dawn is not for everyone, anymore than Wicca or Witchcraft is for everyone. Certain people will be drawn to either a more ceremonial approach to magic and theurgy or they will be drawn to something else.
The Hermetic Tradition, which the Golden Dawn is certainly a modern manifestation really lends itself to those more interested in ceremonial magic and theurgy.
FSO: What do you think is the current state of the tradition? How would you describe the climate? Do you think that it is really just a lot of in-fighting as the Internet makes it seem, or do you think that the Internet does not represent what it really going on in the community as a whole?
SS: Personally, I think that the current state of the Golden Dawn tradition is one of growth. The overall system has grown tremendously in the last 120 years, and with various modern Orders putting their own spin on the traditional material, the system can only grow.
The Climate in the Golden Dawn Community is one of guarded work in my opinion. There are several serious Golden Dawn Orders around the world that communicate and get along, even share some material, but there are outside forces that constantly threaten the overall Golden Dawn Community. Many of these outside forces claim that they represent the Golden Dawn or the Golden Dawn Community as a whole, but they are really on the outside looking in trying to tear apart something they do not wholly comprehend. Because of these outsiders, the other serious groups are very cautious in their dealings with others within the Golden Dawn Community.
The apparent “in-fighting” that is routinely seen on the Internet does not accurately portray what is going on in the overall Golden Dawn Community. This “in-fighting” is brought on by a few bad apples, as it were, that do not represent the overall community, but they certainly tarnish the rest of the community by their words and actions.
The Internet is a great tool, especially for magicians to share information, talk, and network amongst themselves. It is this that is overshadowed by the bickering and “in-fighting” that is more often seen publicly. There is more communication behind the scenes than the average person really sees on the Internet. Various members from several Orders communicate and network sharing and just talking among them. This is not just the average member of an Order, but also senior Adepti and even the various Chiefs of the Orders communicating.
FSO: Is there anything that you personally would like to express to the community? Any advice, words of wisdom, anything that you have always thought it was important for people to know?
SS: The only advice I have is to be fraternal with each other. Sure we can disagree on various points of doing the work of the Golden Dawn System, but do so without becoming person in the debate. Remember that all of us had to start some where nothing was fully formed at the beginning in doing this Work.
Do the Work. Be diligent, be discriminating in your choices and actions, and take responsibility for your words and actions, but be fraternal to those whom are doing the Work in another Order within the Golden Dawn Tradition as well as those that are in your own Temple and Order, after all we are all doing similar grade work and striving towards the same goal in the Magnum Opus.
Try to live up to the Hermetic maxim of Scire, Velle, Audere, Tacere (To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent).