A brief outline of the development of the Aurum Solis
Britain has through the centuries been renowned for Art Magick, from the days when the powers of the "Hyperboreans" were known to the Greeks: Michael Scott the wonderworker was received at the court of the Emperor Frederick II in Sicily: Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar, was a renowned alchemist: Alexander Seton, another alchemist, was for his wide travels and international fame called the "Cosmopolite:" the "Wizard Earl of Northumberland" graced Tudor times, as also did John Dee and Edward Kelly, the alchemist and the seer to whom was revealed the Enochian Arcana: all these and many more, down to the founders of the modern magical movements, have worked along their distinctive lines, the magick of the Grimoires, of the Qabalah, Alchemical, Enochian, and other: yet underlying all, we distinguish the mysterious forces of the land, the Pagan heart of the Isle of Albion!
In the eighteenth and the greater part of the nineteenth centuries, the continuation of the occult tradition was for the most part hedged by great secrecy. Virtually inescapable churchgoing and the insistence of the clergy of all denominations upon the orthodoxy of their members, had made it impossible for anyone to admit openly to an interest in practical magick unless he was willing and able to flout all social conventions and commitments, to make himself in fact an outlaw. The notoriety of the eighteenth century "Hellfire Clubs" had only served to confirm public opinion in this. An interest in theoretical magick however was quite a different thing. Hence there grew up in this epoch a number of quiet "antiquarian societies" and "folklore societies" which pursued their studies in peace, laying up beneath their haloes of respectability a considerable store of information on such "curiosities" as alchemical documents, medieval books, local cults and beliefs, and so on. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the climate began to change. Partly as a result of scientific progress, partly as a result of widening knowledge of other cultures and ways of life, the hold of the traditional authorities over the minds and consciences of educated men and women was weakening. A number of the antiquarian societies began to move from a theoretical to a practical interest in their lore.
From the membership of one such society the Aurum Solis was founded in 1897. The particular interests of the society had been in Alchemical, Gnostic, Medieval and Celtic traditions: they had gathered much abstruse knowledge on these matters with details of ritual techniques which they were now prepared to put into practice: moreover, they had their spiritual fulcrum, for they had developed their own distinctive constellation of "the worshipped." So as to bring the various researches of the Order into harmony on a sound philosophic basis, it was decided to adopt the fundamental framework of the Qabalah without however binding the Order either to the tangled rabbinic traditions or to the stereotyped Judaeo-Christian interpretations so often associated with it. This combination of factors resulted in the workings being caught up at once into great effectiveness and vitality.
With the outer name of the Order, Aurum Solis, they recalled not only the patient work of the medieval Alchemists but also the objective which they had sought, the transmutation to pure solar gold and all which it symbolizes. Central to the life of the Aurum Solis is the fact of Adepthood, that change in the ground of spiritual consciousness which signalizes the magician's entry into the mystical domain of the Higher Self: and it is the prime concern of the Order to bring its members to that attainment. From the first step, the first resolve, the adventure into magick is given tautness and definition by this aspiration: nor is its achievement an end to the adventure, but rather a new and more profound beginning. For it must be most plainly stated, the death into which the initiate passes is more a symbolic death, and the new birth into which the Adept arises is a veritable new birth. His now is the Sphere of the Sun, for the new heavens of his world are irradiated by a Sun beyond the sun. To this central purpose, indeed, was the Order founded, as indicated by the avowed intention of the founders, “to re-establish the Wisdom of the Mages and to proclaim anew the Secrets of the Alchemists.”
As befits an occult Order functioning in Britain, the A:.S:. has based much of its work on Celtic contacts: the ancient Fire Festivals, Imbolc, Bealteinne, Lughnasadh and Samhuinn, are ritually celebrated year by year, and a series of magical ceremonies has been conducted in or near centres of early British and Celtic potency: prehistoric sites such as “King Arthur’s Caver” in the Wye Valley, the Paviland Cave in Glamorganshire and such legendary sites as “Waylands Smithy” (actually an ancient tomb) in Berkshire: also places of later Celtic associations such as Tintagel, Glastonbury, Holyhead, Iona and Lindisfarne.
Nevertheless, the Order’s pursuit of its purpose has not been all drama, all ritual splendor, joyously though these things have been adopted as beseems the children of Light. There has been much work over the years in clarifying the essentials of the Qabalah, freeing them from doctrinal bias and stripping away the non-essentials: re-aligning Qabalistic theories, also, and other occult knowledge, with modern trends in psychology and science so as to present continually an up-to-date instrument of magick to the understanding of today. Besides the development of these great guide-lines of knowledge, the Order's experience and understanding of the activities of human and of non-human minds has been enlarged also by conducting practical investigations. Various psychic phenomena have been examined: and conclusions have been reached which have had a considerable effect in determining the Order's adoption or rejection of various ritual techniques. Always the purpose has been to ascertain what truly occurs in a given case: academic theorizing can come in afterwards, first as an aid to interpreting the facts, and then to amplify our understanding of the principles. Taking into account both the practical and the theoretical aspects of the Order's researches, such a program can never be finally completed.
The Order continued to develop its own original lines of work and study with great unity of spirit, under the leadership of George Stanton the first Warden, until the cessation of activities brought about by World War I. Afterwards, in the early Twenties and onwards, we find in the mingled old and new membership a partial divergence of purpose, not at that time a cause of any disruption, and probably not at once seen as detrimental:—on the one hand the traditionalists of the Order delved ever deeper into their chosen studies: on the other hand there was a formalist trend, fostered by the advent of members with a G.*.D:. background, together with the general "Masonic" tendency which was characteristic of the times and largely a legacy of the War. Nevertheless, at the period in question, the stimulus of these two tendencies produced a great richness in the workings, together with an additional spur to research in extending Order's learning. One example of this was the considerable work done in reviewing and extending the Order’s Hebrew knowledge. This was carried Morris'Greenberg, a Rabbideeply learned in the Talmud and in the traditional Qabala. He gave into the Order’s keeping many valued teachings, which he often rendered the more memorable by the trenchant and witty sayings with which he illustrated them. Even in the Thirties, when spending his last years in retirement at Bournemouth, this scholarly man was a wonderful Mentor to the Order.
The later Thirties were inevitably somewhat overshadowed by the highly-charged political atmosphere of the times. Following true occult tradition, the Order had ever remained aloof from politics of every description, and for long refrained from any comment on the creeds of that epoch: nevertheless, confronted with a situation in which many people saw Fascism and Communism as the major alternatives confronting mankind, the Order issued to its members the following assurance: -
"The development of the individual towards perfection, we hold to be a sacred duty: and we work for the common good, as a means towards the perfecting of every individual. To invert this ideal, and to regard the individual as existing only for the good of the race as a whole, is to stultify all higher aspiration, and its directly opposed to the purposes of Occultism.”
When war actually broke out, it became inevitable, as in 1914, to cease official Order activities for the duration. Owing to a concatenation of circumstances full activity was not resumed until 1949. Prior to that year, however, a number of the members had been working privately, both in England and on the Continent as many other magicians were doing at that time, in ceremonial works connected with dispelling the astral aftermath of war and re-creating the magical links with higher planes. Meeting in different places, working in very small groups, and frequently with the assistance of one or more non-members, they had not found it either convenient or desirable to utilise the formal temple workings of the Order and had instead drawn upon their knowledge of medieval magical methods. They had achieved some notable results and had gained some unforgettable experiences thereby. In 1949 they returned to the renewed meetings of the Order, which had been re-organized, and for several years a great effort was made to keep the whole work of the Order moving with the same zest.
It now became apparent, however, that a major crisis was approaching. In 1956 the ruling authority of the Order made a review of the entire question of magical workings, of modern and of older Western types. The following conclusions were reached:
"Initiation into an understanding of the Occult powers does not necessarily result in the ability to make magical use of those powers. In English Freemasonry (the only type of Freemasonry reviewed in this instance) a type of ritual has been developed which is designed to initiate the understanding but, by deliberate intention, not to lead into ceremonial magick. The Freemasons do not claim and do not wish to be magicians. A Masonic type of ritual is not therefore likely to be suited to a magical Order."
The main result of this was to cause a major split in the Order. In 1957 the supporters of the modern type of working broke away and formed themselves into the Hermetic Order of the Sacred Word. The Aurum Solis, for its part, decided that the ritual of the Order should be completely reorganized on its original lines: that the rites and the philosophy of the Order should reflect the joy and freedom of the Spirit which has been so much a part of true Magick in all ages; and that, as in the early days of the Order, the essential standard of judgment on any practice should not simply be that of philosophic and technical correctness, but that of effectiveness.
The Order of the Sacred Word took its name from a mystical word known to Qabalists, which not only signifies but also symbolizes in its structure, the descent of Spirit into Matter. It was soon found more convenient to refer to the Order usually by its initials S.W., or O.S.V. (Ordo Sacri Verbi,) partly because the use of the name in full, even with the adjective Hermetic, was apt to lead to confusion among outsiders: several incidents occurred in which people evidently thought they had encountered a monastic Order of the Roman Church! However, during the years of its separate existence, the Order of the Sacred Word had a most interesting history. This was largely due to the great work of Ernest Page, the notable London astrologer who became Warden of the S.W. some years after the break.
The beloved Ernest was a gifted and many-sides personality: few, if any, knew all his counsels, but all that he did was distinguished by the exquisite and devoted care which was his especial characteristic. In Soho the fragile figure with the snow-white hair and beard was well-known, going through the narrow streets carrying a large leather bag in each hand (the one filled with astrological books and papers, the other with personal possessions) or presiding through the night at a quiet table in the corner of a crowded coffee-bar, drawing meticulous horoscopes and annotating them in his fine archaic script, checking the accuracy of his work by making quiet and often astounding observations on his client's past life, sometimes spending an hour or more sifting the evidence for a particular time of birth: and all for a most nominal fee, or for no fee at all if he so decided: this work, like everything else, he did for the love of it. His forecasts, when he made them, were accurate to a high degree: for besides his astrological knowledge he possessed a deep intuitive perception to which, however, he never laid claim. Besides these gifts he was also a skilled graphologist and a talented lyrical poet: but above all, the people who came to see him on account of his fame as a Soho "character," lingered in crowds around his table for the sake of the talk. Writers, artists, philosophers were drawn into it: with Soho's habitue's of all kinds, men, women, the old, the young, the ambitious, the derelict. If this had been the whole of Ernest's life, he would still have been remarkable: yet it was merely the surface of an intense and hidden activity. There was, for instance, his devoted work for the Simon Society, an association formed to help those (often the talented and sensitive) who because of ill-health or other misfortune really need aid to rehabilitate themselves, but who cannot seek it through the official channels, either because they have never qualified for it as "employed persons" or because they dread the loss of independence and self-respect. This was a cause very dear to Ernest's heart, as was also the work that he did along other lines to help the many young men who fail to find in London the fortune they have come to seek, and who often drift into crime and vice, not through malice, but from mere inability to cope with the situation. The number cannot be known, of those who give Ernest their lifelong thanks for their escape from such circumstances.
Immediately upon becoming Warden of the S.W., Ernest began working for the reunion of that Order with the Aurum Solis. That reunion, regrettably, he did not live to see: but also, he did much to form bonds of friendship between the S.W. and other occult organizations. It was directly due to his wide and genial sympathies that the S.W. in its latter days included members with backgrounds of Martinist, Druid and Theosophist training.
In 1971 the two Orders were reunited in the original style of Aurum Solis working, the Order now being known as THE SACRED WORD or, alternatively, AURUM SOLIS.
Excerpt from the Magical Philosophy, Book 1, Robe and Ring, Denning & Phillips, Llewellyn Publications.