1. What are the Ogdoadic Mysteries?
In simple terms, the Ogdoadic Mysteries are a particular expression of Hermeticism.
Specifically, the word “Ogdoad” means the number “8” in Ancient Greek. All fully-functioning magical systems have key numerical correspondences that embody the power and emphasis of the particular system. For example, Ancient Greek magic largely focuses on the number 12, with the 12 Olympian Deities being the central pantheon. There is a lesser focus on the number 7, representing the 7 visible planets in the heavens (visible with the naked eye, that is). What is different about the Ogdoadic Tradition is that its numerical affiliation is outrightly declared in its very name, while other traditions may require careful study to determine their numerical foundation.
So, we have determined that in the Ogdoadic Mysteries we place emphasis on the number 8. This of course begs the question as to what 8 must signify. It can encompass many things, but one of the strongest correspondences is to the concept of Regeneration. Think of a musical scale. It has 8 notes, but the last note, the eighth, is an octave of the first. It is the same note, yet different. From there the scale begins again. It is a return to where we began, and yet with a different and higher resonance.
Thus do we pursue our spiritual quest, to attain that higher state of Regeneration which is true to our deepest and innermost self, where both high and low resonate together in perfect tune.
There are traces of those who venerated the number 8 throughout history, although as far as we are aware, the term “Ogdoadic Mysteries” was not coined until the 20th Century by the writers Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. They were the first people to openly publish the works of the Aurum Solis. Amongst their writings is a beautiful description of the history of the Ogdoadic Mysteries, which is published on the website of our Order, the Rosa Solis. Click here to visit the site and read the about page.
Qabalists will see Hod, the 8th Sephira, known as Splendour or Glory, as a key representation of the Regenerative Mysteries of 8. Hod also governs many aspects of our magical work and is strongly associated with Thoth and Hermes.
Christians have a similar concept of Regeneration associated with the number 8, because 8 is the number associated with baptism, which was historically experienced as a spiritual renewal. This concept was defined as the “octava dies” or the mythical “Eighth Day” of their spirituality. On one level this can be seen as the time of the Risen and Regenerated Christos, a time beyond the mundane human time measured in units of seven days. The magical sacrament of Baptism celebrated by Christians symbolised seekers passing from “Death in Sin” to the “New Life of Christ,” in an “Eighth Day” without end or beginning, a state outside usual time and space.
In the Pythagorean world view, the number 8 represented completed mathematical perfection.
Further examples of the prominence of the number 8 can be found in Norman R Kraft’s book, “Ogdoadic Magick” (Appendix A – The Ogdoadic Tradition: Threads from a Grand Tapestry, page 225 onwards).
2. Is there a difference between the Ogdoadic Mysteries as practised by the Rosa Solis and the workings of other groups such as the Golden Dawn or the Society of the Inner Light?
There are some similarities, as well as some key differences.
Each of these groups are Mystery Schools or initiatory groups drawing upon magical teachings that stretch back to Egypt. An initiatory group can be seen as an organisation that is able to lead and support an individual seeker through a system of experiences and practices which, if worked through correctly, can make that individual a fuller person.
Each organisation tends to have a form of “outer court” and “inner court,” and each celebrate both the Lesser Mysteries and Greater Mysteries. To borrow a quote from Masonry, all could loosely agree that the goal of the Lesser Mysteries is the “making smooth the rough-hewn ashlar.” Each has a series of degrees (known as “Halls” in the Rosa Solis) encompassing certain teachings, after the completion of which you may be invited to receive initiation into a “higher” degree(s).
But the flavour and emphasis of each group are quite different. The best way to experience the differences is to practice key exercises from each system. Some specific differences are:
1) The Ogdoadic Mysteries draw their lineage predominantly from Hermetic, neo-Platonic and Renaissance sources, while the Golden Dawn, Society of the Inner Light and related groups draw more extensively upon Rosicrucian influences.
2) Inner Contacts: The Rosa Solis is a fully-contacted esoteric Order, as is the Society of the Inner Light. Historically, Golden Dawn lodges are not contacted, although there are some exceptions.
3) The Golden Dawn is traditionally very lodge-based, as is the Society of the Inner Light. While there are group meetings and group workings performed at Houses and Commanderies of the Rosa Solis, the bulk of the work is completed by the solo practitioner.
There are of course further differences, but those are more subjective. Perhaps the one difference we might venture to discuss pertains to the pantheons utilised. The Golden Dawn did a magnificent job of cataloguing and synthesising the diverse magical traditions found in the West. Their works are a rich, multi-coloured tapestry that can take you from Samothracian mysteries in one rite to Chaldean Oracles in the next. It is a fantastic exploration of the many-hued magical systems which have existed. The Rosa Solis, in contrast to this rich tapestry, is more of a fine spun silk. There is a strong internal coherence to the system, and all of the fundamental rites and practices operate around a set group of deities and concepts. This can lead to building a profound relationship with the magical beings and ideas because all the exercises have a cohesiveness that is not found in many other systems.
Again, this is very subjective, and we do not say it to value one system over the other. It is simply to show that they each have a very different flavour, and in the end, the seeker must decide which flavour best suits his or her disposition.
3. What is the difference between the Aurum Solis, the Astrum Sophia and the Rosa Solis?
The Aurum Solis is a magical order which was established in 1897 in the United Kingdom. It has trained many serious magicians since its inception. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the Order moved its Grand Commandery, establishing the House of the Winged Serpent in Minneapolis (in the United States) when Grand Master Melita Denning and her husband Osborne Phillips relocated there (these were the pen names for Vivian Godfrey and “Leon Barcynski”).
During their extended Minneapolis sojourn, Vivian and Leon continued to work the Aurum Solis tradition, and during this time they initiated William Stoltz. William eventually rose to be Administrator General of the Aurum Solis and member of the College of Thrones together with Vivian and Leon. When Vivian and Leon moved back to the UK, William went on to study in another organisations, including the Golden Dawn. A few years after Vivian’s passing, Leon (who succeeded Vivian as Grand Master) approved William to re-constitute the House of the Winged Serpent in Minneapolis, later granting Commandery status, to carry on the work of the Aurum Solis there.
After a few years, Leon granted William a “charter of spiritual succession,” which allowed William to establish a new magical order, based upon the workings and magical transmissions he received through the Aurum Solis, while allowing for new developments. Thus was the Astrum Sophia born, with William Stoltz as Grand Master. Having retained its North American, and some European membership, the order established itself as a contacted initiatory Order dedicated to continuing and fostering the Ogdoadic Tradition of the Western Mysteries, and thus providing a sane vehicle for the advancement of its members in an ambience of living alchemy.
Now fully independent, the Astrum Sophia is proud of its Aurum Solis lineage and continues to work in the tradition of the Ogdoadic Mysteries. The Order is led by 3 Adepts, including William Stoltz as Grand Master. Initiates of Astrum Sophia are actively engaged in furthering the work of these Mysteries, as evidenced in the publicly-available Ogdoadic Journal of the Western Mysteries.
The Ordo Rosa Solis was founded in 2014. The Chiefs of the Order are experienced magicians whom William Stoltz gave a full charter to start a new order. Fraternal bonds are maintained with the Ordo Astrum Sophiae.
Leon Barcynski is no longer the Grand Master of the Aurum Solis, but the Order continues to exist under the control of Jean-Luis de Biasi. The teachings and ambience of Aurum Solis have changed significantly since Jean-Luis de Biasi’s appointment as Grand Master.
4. What is the difference between the House of Thoth and the Rosa Solis?
The Rosa Solis is the name of the magical Order to which we belong. Within the Order there are several structures to oversee the work of the Order and provide personal contact with the members. The term “House” refers specifically to the initiatory structure and function of a Rosa Solis group. When you apply to the Rosa Solis for membership, you will always be directed to a House, which is the body that confers initiation, provides mentorship, etc.
The House of Thoth is thus the body that people in the UK, Ireland and many parts of Europe will normally work with when they pursue study within the Rosa Solis. The House operates under the administration of the U.K. Commandery of Albion, formerly a Full and Sovereign Commandery of the Astrum Sophia, constituted on the day of the Summer Solstice, 21st of June, 2009 and now the Grand Commanderie of the Ordo Rosa Solis.
5. Who are the Chiefs of the House of Thoth?
As explained above in Question 4, the House of Thoth operates under the aegis of the Commandery of Albion. Both the House of Thoth and the Commandery of Albion are run by a married couple living in the Malvern Hills. Between them, they have over 37 years’ experience in the Western Mystery Tradition.
The Master previously trained with “Charles Fielding” in the London Group, a Western Mystery Tradition fraternity, with which he worked for over 20 years and held the position of Vice Warden. He trained as a Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner with Dr Richard Bandler and Paul McKenna. Initially attracted to the Ogdoadic system in 1988, he led the North Kent & Charlton House Green Circle group through Denning and Phillip’s “Magickal States of Consciousness” Qabalistic pathworkings. He remains fascinated with the richness and efficacy of the Ogdoadic system.
The Preceptor of the House of Thoth was also formerly Sodalis of the Astrum Sophia College of Thrones, holding the office of Administrator-General for the Order until 2013. In her mundane work she is a college lecturer. She has a BA in Anthropology and worked in Latin America before moving to Holland, where she began her exploration of the Mysteries in 1995. There she founded a magical study group under the tutelage of various instructors, including Marian Green. Later she moved to the UK and became a member of the Temple of Janus, working with Tony Willis, before joining Astrum Sophia and then finally founding Ordo Rosa Solis. She was attracted to the Ogdoadic path by the potency and light within the system, and the simple fact that it really works.
6. What is best way to get a quick taste of the practical side of the Ogdoadic Mysteries?
There are a number of different things you can do. For initial familiarity, you can try working through some of the basic practices publicised in Mysteria Magica by Denning and Phillips (more information on this can be found at question 15). Suggested examples include:
- The Calyx
- The Setting of the Wards of Power
- The Clavis Rei Primae
Most of these exercises require at least an elemental level of proficiency in basic magical techniques. Those experienced with the Golden Dawn-based system will note some similarity, but will probably be quite surprised at the differences too, particularly the added importance of breath and movement.
For those with no experience, the programme laid out in Norman Kraft’s Ogdoadic Magick (although distinct from our own curriculum) will give beginners a good exposure to the basics.
Those who have tasted the system and like it may wish to consider applying for Probationer status with the Rosa Solis.
7. Why join a magical Order?
Because many works of the Ogdoadic Tradition are now openly available, it is possible for the solo practitioner to make great strides along the Path. Furthermore, there are people whose dispositions are best-suited to solo work. It is a valid means of attainment.
However, in his book, School of the Soul, Halevi gives some compelling reasons for joining a functioning Magical Order or Mystery School: “In spiritual work an individual can only go so far. Beyond a certain point the Path becomes obscure because it enters the unknown. Here help is required. However, what is offered by circumstance is sometimes not what is needed, and the inexperienced seeker cannot always tell the good from the bad. What can be said is that supportive companions are as vital as useful maps, well-tried techniques and a trustworthy guide, for the Way is beset with many trials to test and prevent the unready from moving out of their depth. A [Mystery] School is a convoy designed to take groups safely across this difficult country between the natural world and the Kingdom of the Spirit. Besides being a mode of training and transport, a school is a method by which people can form, under the direction of a tutor who is monitored by a master, a composite vessel that can encompass more than the sum of their knowledge or experience.” (Halevi, Z’ev ben Shimon. School of the Soul: Its Path and Pitfalls. Bath: Gateway Books, 1993).
8. What does becoming a Probationer of Rosa Solis mean? What is expected of me? How long does it take?
Whenever one is interested in a magical group, it is important to first try out the work. Initiation can only be conferred after both sides have had a chance to see if they “fit” with each other. Every magical group has its own version of a probation period, which may be more or less strenuous depending upon the nature of the group.
At the Astrum Sophia, you begin the process of exploration by requesting to become a Probationer. There is no formal commitment to the group or the work of the Ogdoadic Mysteries at that point; it is a signal that you wish to learn more about them in order to see if they are appropriate for you. It is also a chance for us to get to know you and see if we feel we can work with you.
After some initial correspondence with us about your own ideas and intentions, you may be invited to become a Probationer. You will be given a manual with a series of exercises to work on. The work is correspondence-based and is designed for a solo practitioner. You can take these at your own pace. We ask for brief monthly reports regarding your progress. A mentor will be available for you to ask questions of. You may be invited to join a group meeting at the House of Thoth, depending upon the activities underway at the time.
You can take as long as you want with the Probationer’s work, but a minimum of 2-3 months is required. It is usually clear after that period of time whether you wish to carry on. If you find that the work is not to your liking, you are free to continue your quest elsewhere with our very best wishes. On the other hand, if you enjoy the work and find you are getting a lot of out of it, you can request to continue your training. Your mentor, the Chiefs of the House of Thoth and the Grand Masters of the Rosa Solis will review the request and may consider you for initiation into the First Hall.
9. What should I expect from Rosa Solis?
We believe you will find an Order committed to the ideal of the magical family and an unwavering devotion to raise its initiates to true Adepthood within the regenerative mysteries of the Ogdoadic Tradition. Only you can be expected to do the work of the Mysteries, but you will have companionship and mentorship on the way.
10. How much money does it cost to become a Probationer of Rosa Solis?
Absolutely nothing. We can best quote from the Constitution of Astrum Sophia itself, which states quite clearly: “No individual shall make any profit by virtue of being a member or leader of Astrum Sophia. The Order does not charge dues or fees for membership… Since initiations and advancements are spiritual gifts of the Order, no fees shall be charged for performing these rites.”
11. How much does it cost to be initiated into the Rosa Solis?
As stated above in question 10, there is no charge for the initiation itself. However, you will need to pay your own travel costs to the Temenos of the House of Thoth in the Malvern Hills to receive initiation. We also ask for a small contribution to cover costs of food and, where appropriate, overnight accommodation. This will not exceed £30.
12. Can I talk to anyone in person or on the phone before making a decision?
Yes. Please contact us first via email and let us know your intentions.
13. Can I be initiated into the inner group of Rosa Solis?
Everyone must follow the structure of the Rosa Solis, beginning with the Probationer period. Progression through the degree structure is always by invitation only, after fully completing the curriculum of each individual degree (known as a “Hall”). After entering the Third Hall, initiates join the Stella Gloriosa. But please be aware there is no “fast track” to the Stella Gloriosa. No matter what degree you have attained in another order, you will start at the beginning with the Rosa Solis. While you may be well-versed in magic, you must first immerse yourself in our tradition–- which is quite different to others–- before you can proceed.
14. What happens if I become a Probationer and then find it is not for me?
You are free to carry on your quest elsewhere with our blessing.
15. Can you recommend any good books to get me started?
It is a curious situation that while many of the rituals and philosophy of the Ogdoadic Tradition have been published, the work is nevertheless still not terribly accessible to a new seeker. Many find the guiding thread needed to link all the published information remains elusive. That guiding thread is what we offer through our curriculum at the Rosa Solis.
The definitive books on the Ogdoadic Tradition are a five-volume series known collectively as “The Magical Philosophy” by Denning and Philips. The series has been published in various forms, but some are out of print. However, as of this writing, it is still relatively easy to find Foundations of High Magick at Amazon (reprinted by Castle books for the original publisher Llewellyn). This book incorporates the first 2 volumes of “The Magical Philosophy” (also known as “TMP”) and is probably the best place to begin. It offers some excellent background and philosophy and is highly recommended.
Many new seekers are drawn to Norman Kraft’s Ogdoadic Magick (Weiser Books). It is a basic and solid introduction to the practices of a probationer in the Ogdoadic Mysteries. This book is particularly suited to people who have little magical experience, as it walks them through many foundation concepts. The specific curriculum does vary from the one we follow, but it nevertheless gives a taster of the Ogdoadic work.
While not part of the TMP series, Planetary Magic is an excellent book by Denning and Phillips which is a kind of initiation into the planetary energies. Dipping into this book will give you a real flavour for the work of the Ogdoadic Mysteries.
Further reading can be found in the remaining issues of “The Magical Philosophy”. The Sword and the Serpent encompasses volumes 3 and 4. This book specifically addresses the Qabalah and esoteric psychology.
Mysteria Magica is book 5 of TMP. Here you will find a treasure trove of the most important Ogdoadic rites and workings. If you want to start practicing the exercises discussed in question 6, you will find them here. But a word to the wise: there is very little information as to how to employ these rites. If you are wanting to explore the Ogdoadic Tradition, you may find yourself not knowing where to begin.
Books with a specific Qabalistic perspective:
- Entrance to the Magical Qabalah – Denning and Phillips (Thoth Publications). This book is much shorter and succinct than the Sword and the Serpent, and thus is probably more accessible for new seekers.
- Magical States of Consciousness – Denning and Phillips (Llewellyn). A wonderful book of pathworkings associated with the Qabalah. Not necessarily a great place for beginners, but it will give you a very good feel for some of the Ogdoadic work we pursue.
- The Practical Qabalah – Charles Fielding (Weiser). One of the best basic Qabalah books ever written, which also covers much of the Jungian psychology we work with in the Rosa Solis.
- The Greek Qabalah – Kieren Barry (Weiser). An eye-opener study of the Greek links within the Qabalah. This is suited to people well-versed with the Qabalah who are interested in exploring the Greek side of things. As our Mysteries have a strong Greek flavour, this is all the more relevant.
Other books that give a glimpse of some of the philosophy:
- Corpus Hermeticum – translated by GRS Mead and available on the Rosa Solis website.
- Light in Extension – David Godwin (Llewellyn) gives great insight into Greek magic, which is conducive to Rosa Solis work.
Don’t forget to have a look at our Publications page, where you will also find useful reading.
A note to the wise: It is easy to get swamped in a reading spree when you first get started. This can cause mental indigestion. Magic, in the end, is a practical art. It is useful to remember that discrimination is one of the first and best learned skills on the Path. To paraphrase Heracletus, accumulation of knowledge is not the same as accumulation of wisdom!
16. Are there any good web resources for the Ogdoadic Mysteries?
Simply check our Links page.
Inclusion of these links is not an endorsement of each site’s content. The links are offered as resources.
17. How do I know it is not all rubbish?
This raises an important point. Whenever you are contacting a new esoteric group, you must always use your own intuition and common sense. Proceed with caution. Do the promises sound too good to be true? Does anything you are asked to do feel wrong or uncomfortable? Do you feel something is wanted from you that you feel is wrong? Read the group’s website and form an initial opinion. Do they seem knowledgeable, without trying to make themselves into infallible demi-gods?
If you have done the above with our Order and have a positive initial impression, then do the exercises recommended in question 6. If the exercise has left you feeling good, then you may consider contacting us and judging your initial contact. Does what we say seem reasonable? If not, then please take our blessings for the fulfilment of your quest elsewhere.
In the end, the “proof of the pudding is in the eating” and you will never know for sure until you take some initial steps. There is always some strangeness to new groups and you will have to get used to that. But if you ever feel distrustful, then listen to your intuition. Clearly we do not think that what we are doing is rubbish. But our particular approach to the Mysteries may or may not suit your disposition, and you will have to trust your own common sense as to whether you want to proceed.
18. I’m already a member of another esoteric group, can I still join?
Membership of the Order does not formally preclude membership of other legal organisations. However, individuals are asked to exercise common sense and are cautioned against spreading their focus too thinly. Few of us have the ability and skill to climb up two different ladders at the same time….particularly when the ladders are in different rooms!
19. What is Rosa Solis’ view on homosexuality? Transgender? Race?
The Rosa Solis abhors prejudice of any kind and does not discriminate on basis of sexual, racial or gender orientation.
20. Can I work together with people in group rituals? Are they a requirement or can I also work alone?
Group workings in the UK are available to those who choose to participate, but they are never a requirement.