HOGD Cross

Flying Rolls

An Introduction
By Frater Ad Alta

Within the Golden Portal
Of the Garden of the Wise,
Watching by the seven sprayed fountain,
The Hesperian Dragon lies.
Like the ever burning branches
In the dream of holy seer;
Like the types of Asia's churches
Those glorious jets appear.
Three times the magic waters
Must the winged dragon drain
Then his scales shall burst asunder
And his heart be rent in twain.
Forth shall flow an emanation
Forth shall spring a shape divine,
And if Sol and Cynthia and thee
Shall the charmed key be thine.


Amid the oldest mountains
Whose tops are next the Sun,
The everlasting rivers
Through glowing channels run,
Those channels are of gold
And thence the countless treasures
Of the kings of earth are rolled.
But far - far must he wander
O'er realms and seas unknown
Who seeks the ancient mountains
Where shines the wondrous stone.

Flying Roll VII

In 1971 the Golden Dawn was such a specialist field of research, little still existed in print outside the pale of Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn published more than thirty years previously over a four year period from 1937. When published it caused a stir in the occult community but with merging accolades far outweighing any breach of obligation at the time. Crowley before him had already published some of the teachings and rituals in his Equinox series, but unlike Regardies motivation the Order was still strong and Mathers moved to block Crowley from publishing any further material through the courts. Aside various members publishing snippets of Golden Dawn material through their off shoot organisations nothing really directly appeared in print after Regardies publication until 1969 when R.G.Torrens published The Golden Dawn - its inner teachings, a work that fetched into print many teachings of the original nineteenth century Order for the first time and the first work since Regardie to directly address some of the practical teachings of the Order in one volume and was to be the first in a series of texts that would bring us to the present day.

In 1970 Ritual Magic in England by Francis King addressed a synthesis of Golden Dawn areas. 1972 saw the production of Torrens second work - The Secret Rituals of the Golden Dawn that incorporated the original Outer Order rituals of the Isis Urania, so predating Regardies published rituals by around 30 years. It was coupled in the same year with a groundbreaking work titled The Magicians of the Golden Dawn, concerning the history of the Golden Dawn and its early members, often quoted as a source work it was written by Ellic Howe; an authority on European and ‘underground’ occult movements and sects. Howe had his own spin on the Order and like King before him was stricken with the authors prerogative of truthful flamboyance. Nevertheless each book contained their worth and would help spurn new generations of historians and hopeful magicians to gather a pace for a system that brought magical philosophy to life. Practical applications that were synthesised and created for a most extraordinary Order by some of the most extraordinarily insightful of characters.

Torrens books were motivated toward practical magical applications in the same way as Regardies while following on from King - Howe gave an account of an Orders history that befitted the intellectual and the imaginative. Between them they generated a new enthusiasm that fed the imagination of any who read them.

Missing though from these works for the most part were the experiential details of the practitioners themselves. These began arriving in 1971, neatly tucked into the middle of these other publications by Francis King, collecting together the extant of the Flying Roll papers at the time – so far as he was able to obtain and first printed the collection as a book titled Astral Projection, Magic and Alchemy.

Unlike the majority of papers in circulation that generally formed the background curricula for practical magical application the Flying Rolls were mainly comprised of practical magical experiences written by a few notable adepts of the R.R. et A.C., the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn. A few were given as short lectures and like the general order papers they were lent to members who paid a fee, painstakingly copied them by hand then returned the originals to their source. Most of the papers were for the eyes of the Inner Order only and were distributed to those attaining the grade of Adeptus Minor within the R.R. et A.C.

The flying rolls give us a unique insight into the magical experiences of the original Golden Dawn magician. Comprising 36 papers they cover such subjects as astral projection and astral vision,  the will and magical power, clairvoyance, Tattvas, Astrology,  Enochian Magic, Rosicrucianism, Adepthood, symbolism, alchemy, the soul and general progression within the Order.  It has been suggested the Rolls parallel those of the Royal Oriental Order of the Sat B’hai that came to England through Captain James Henry Lawrence Archer. Kenneth Mackenzie would become its co-founder in 1872. The Sat B’hai was to become the first esoteric order to admit women and was a template of sorts for the Golden Dawn that was to follow. The origins of the Golden Dawn structure has been attributed to Kenneth Mackenzie through the Cypher Manuscripts that Mathers painstakingly elaborated upon to form the practical structure of the Golden Dawn Order. Of the others involved in the Sat B’hai one was Benjamin Cox who in 1888 along with Mackenzies wife and seven others were to be the first initiated into the Golden Dawn. Cox became the Chief of the Osiris Temple No. 4 of the Golden Dawn at Weston-Super-Mare in the same year and in 1889 wrote the 7=4 ritual for an Inner Order that wouldn't be established for another three years.

Darcy Küntz in his Golden Dawn Study Series mentions the Sat B’hai was probably the source of the Golden Dawn Knowledge lectures, consisting of thirty-five topics of an occult nature written by Benjamin Cox as the “subjects for investigation by circles of the Sat B’hai”; by all accounts, it appears Golden Dawn students did receive these documents for study. The parallels are interesting to the 36 Flying Roll manuscripts, the majority of which were written between 1892 and 1894 following Mathers formation of the inner or second Order in 1892. Comprising practical experiences and insights, the rolls give a good indication of the subjects covered and form a condensed cross section of the Orders teachings.

A few of the papers were presented by their authors including William Wynn Westcott in the form of short addresses to the membership having attained the requisite grades. It was important for the student to copy the papers accurately as inaccurate copying in the case of grade curricula papers could easily mean failing an examination so the student was very conscientious in transcribing the texts and probably learnt quicker as a consequence. The original Order drew its membership mainly from the Masonic and Theosophical quarters with part of their success being due to being an organisation that taught practical magical philosophy and admitted women. This immediately led to family encouragement and easy to visualise many a Victorian family packing the servants away of an evening to  a lower level of the house and indulging in a spot of scrying in the spirit vision, clairvoyance or ritual magic.

The majority of manuscripts we have today are made up of either the curricula for study coupled with formulae and correspondences between members that give an air to an ever changing internal politic of the time. The manuscripts can often appear abstract or difficult to interpret. Israel Regardie through the publication of The Golden Dawn gave the world a magical gift - The revitalisation of a coherent magical system that were it not for his four volume publication commencing in the late 1930’s many of us may not now be involved.  His work has enthused new generations of magicians and captured the imagination of historians alike.

Parts of the Flying Rolls pertaining to practical aids in magical transcendence had previously been incorporated in Dr Regardie’s magnum opus  - The Golden Dawn, so having already been published Francis King left those parts out of his Astral Projection, Magic and Alchemy collection. There were also a few of an administrative or technical nature that remarkably he chose to omit at the time, not believing they would be of interest to the student. He had a passion for the Golden Dawn and has been described as a Golden Dawn historian but his flair at times gave more to the creative than the historical.

He may have been correct in the respect that administrative documents may indeed appear quite dull to a multitude who crave the lost secrets of the universe. But to those who have an interest in how the organisation was run this information can give great insight into the mindset of the original members and add a hidden wealth to a system that has influenced the western esoteric tradition like no other. Secrets come from many directions and magic runs a lot deeper than the mere picking up of trinkets. We can learn much from the minds of others and therefore ourselves through their deeds and actions.

When reading various accounts, teachings and papers regarding the Golden Dawn the intimation of either further unpublished or lost papers runs like a seam of gold through the written word. When Francis King mentioned he omitted a number of documents the imagination wondered what those documents were, what they might contain and how many more documents may be in existence hidden from our sight.

It was only through authors like Regardie, King, Torrens and Howe that the pace of interest in the Golden Dawn became a more viable field for the publisher in the 70's. Together with the administrative rolls he omitted at the time of publishing Francis King had been unable to trace copies of flying Roll XXII, XXIV, XXVIII (the so called fugitive flying Roll), XXIX, XXXI and Flying Roll XXXII.

If like me you are one who slips easily into a distance trance at the thought of discovering long lost papers then Francis King would soon have us mounting an expedition in search of them.

And indeed one such scholar did. It was Robert Gilbert, the noted Golden Dawn historian who discovered the missing rolls in a private collection in the 1970’s. Ellic Howe had introduced him to the custodian of a number of documents that included a full set of the Flying Rolls written in the hands of two of the contributing authors Westcott and Bullock, with the majority being transcribed by Colonel Sir Henry Edward Colville - an early member of Isis Urania. The Rolls eventually found their way to Arthur Waite who then preserved them. These included the Flying Rolls that Francis King was unable to trace. They had remained hidden for a great many years and only came to light when the custodian realised Gilbert was interested in all aspects of the Golden Dawn. The missing Rolls from Kings original publication were now incorporated into a new version entitled Ritual Magic of the Golden Dawn published in 1987, together with the rolls he had previously omitted.

There has always been an allusion to unpublished Golden Dawn papers, and this has always been part of the mystique and charm of the Order. The seams of gold invariably tends to reside in private collections and it is well publicised that a great many papers were destroyed by the hand of its membership wishing to keep the Order secret, with fire always being the favoured medium for their disposal. I find this an inexcusable tradition extending to as recent a time as 1978 when the last adepts of the Whare-Ra destroyed by fire many years worth of Golden Dawn research and regalia, marking the sad demise of over 70 years of active Golden Dawn experimentation and for a number there life's worth.

I have a different view to those displaying the wanton destruction of literature and readily promoting the demise of a system with a chain of thought running parallel to those who derided Regardie for publishing Golden Dawn material back in the 1930’s.

I stand with the ethos of the Flying Rolls and the destruction or potential allowance of the system to fail is a misappropriation in the usage of the term secrecy. While material should not fall into the wrong hands as the ignorant may cause a similar fate, magical experience is a priceless essence that can be shared. Wherever possible it should gently be passed before the grave is reached to those currently immersed in its trials. That an intuitive air will better serve each in coping with the least expected of realities and potentially extend a greater benefit than its original authors could have fathomed. The Flying Rolls are unique as they give exactly that - a glimpse into the magical experiences captured by these adepts working the original system, formerly recording their experiences and insights that they may be passed on and aid new generations of students.

The authors attributed to the Flying Rolls together with their mottos:
Macgregor Mathers - Deo Duce Comite Ferro
Moina Mathers - Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum
William Wynn Westcott - Non Omnis Moriar & Sapere Aude
John William Brodie-Innes - Sub Spe
Dr Henry Pullen-Berry - Anima Pura Sit
Florence Farr - Sapientia Sapienti Dona Data
Annie Horniman - Fortiter et Recte
Dr Edmund William Berridge - Resurgam
Percy Bullock - Levavi Oculos
Mrs Pamela Bullock - Shemeber
Elaine Simpson (a mistress of Aleister Crowley) - Fidelis
Oswald Murray - Quastor Lucis
Helen Mary Rand - Vigilate

Of all the Flying Rolls no. XVIII is one of the most interesting and who's value is easily missed by all bar the practicing magician. Sitting at the heart of the flying rolls and written by Annie Horniman in 1893 she addresses the newly obligated Neophyte in the potential struggles that may befall them as they journey in their lives within the gaze of the Golden Dawn system.

In late Victorian Britain the potential problems encountered when trying to muster the discipline for daily practice were no different to our own age, her paper shows just how timeless the distractions to doing the work actually are and makes it difficult to imagine it was written over 100 years ago. For any embarking upon the system it is an invaluable piece that gives exactly the right measure of insight into elements of what the student will invariably encounter.

The ever increasing popularity of the Golden Dawn as a system has made it possible for new material to come to light and publications to include more details of the original structure that furthers the operations of the Order. Robert Gilbert and Darcy Küntz are two present day authors at the forefront of researching and publishing historical material in all its forms and we are all very grateful to them and those like them for their hard work in fetching to us invaluable insights of the original Order.

Let us remember that value is subjective, so who are we to discriminate the worth of the material we come across on behalf of any in the pursuit of the higher.  The Flying Rolls give us an additional insight into the experiences of magicians that have always been woven into a timeless system, and are accepted readily into the minds of the true seeker who may find they too are part of that same fabric.

Copyright © 2009 - Frater Ad Alta.


Back to Flying Rolls