Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Z3 - The Enterer of the Threshold transcribed by Cogito Ergo Sum

Hell Fire Club Books - no date stated (original document dates to 1896). 119 pages. Small octavo. Printed in full color.

Available in two editions:

Half Leather: Limited to 56 copies.

Full Leather: Limited to 22 copies: 3 mother letters, 7 planetary letters, & 12 zodiacal letters. Sold out at publisher.

Z3 - The Enterer of the Threshold is like a window back in time. The book is a facsimile of a handwritten document linked to the most legendary occult group of the Victorian era, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Long before days of xerox machines, scanners, and .pdf's members had to hand copy all documents concerning the order and its teachings. Magical documents, such as the 'Flying Rolls', were lent to Adepts on a temporary basis. While in their possession, Adepti had to make a personal copy within a specified amount of time before passing it along to the next member, usually through registered mail. This particular copy of the Z3 was copied on January 13th 1896, when the order was only six years old, by a female member known by her magical motto, Cogito Ergo Sum (I think, therefore I am) -- obviously a fan of Descartes.

The Z3 document is an explanation of the symbolism and meaning behind the Neophyte, or 0=0, Ritual of the Golden Dawn. The Neophyte Ritual is one of the most fundamental ceremonies within the Golden Dawn tradition. Paradoxically, it is one of their most basic rituals, yet at the same time it is also one of the most profound in the way it can be understood on multiple levels -- a microcosm of the macrocosm. One could draw a parallel to the LBRP ritual; it is one of the most basic of rituals, yet is also one of the most effective.

The Z3 begins by describing symbolism to be used in the ritual. I should add that this document is intended for Adepti, not the Neophyte candidate. This follows with notes about how the ceremony is to be structured and conducted. The reader is then told how to instruct the candidate in the meaning of some of the signs and symbolism used within the Golden Dawn. It also gives advice on how the Hierophant should conduct the ceremony. For example, "The Ritual should in all cases be said in a loud, stern, clear, and solemn voice, so as to impress the Candidate with the solemnity of the occasion; and in this there should be no foolishness, nervousness, or hesitation."  That's Victorian-speak for "No screwing around!" There are some other notation gems and interesting asides to be found within the text as well.

The text continues with instructions for teaching the candidate the basic Neophyte gestures, like the Step, Saluting Sign, Sign of Silence, and Grip. It also explains how the Grand Word and Equinoctial Password are to be imparted to the candidate. As many readers may know, a fair amount of the symbolism and ritual devices can be traced directly back to Freemasonry. As a good friend once told me, "The Golden Dawn is Freemasonry on steroids". The only caveat to that statement is the Golden Dawn allows women members; they were one of the first secret societies to do so. The Golden Dawn would not be what it is today without the contributions of female members like Florence Farr, Moina Mathers, Annie Horniman, Evelyn Underhill, and of course the copyist of this document. For those interested in learning more about the women of the order I highly recommend Mary K. Greer's book, The Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses.

The text concludes with a discussion about the symbolism of the Closing Ceremony and the symbolism of the Equinox. The text reads more like an overview of the Neophyte ritual with tips and suggestions rather than a ritual script. The text assumes the reader already has advanced knowledge in the Golden Dawn tradition and Western esotericism in general, including text in Hebrew and Coptic, which is not surprising considering this was an Inner order document intended only for the eyes of Adepts. Unless one was very familiar with the Golden Dawn tradition, one would have a very hard time reproducing the Neophyte ceremony from this text alone. It presents the bare bones of the ritual only. Prior to Israel Regardie's published works, details of the Neophyte Ritual were mostly unknown outside the order. Those familiar with Regardie's version of the 0=0 will be intrigued by differences presented here.

Now for the book itself:

In this review I will be reviewing the Full Leather edition, one of the three 'Mother Letter" copies, of which this is 'Aleph' (א), meaning "breath'The book itself perfectly embodies the era in which it was originally written -- so much so that it almost feels like a relic. It is bound in full, rich, plum kidskin with vertical long grain. Inset into the cover is a piece of triangular, black, calfskin upon which the figure of Thoth is stamped in gilt. Each copy has one of 22 Hebrew letters in gilt at the apex of the triangle and "Z" & "3" at the lower points. The black triangle likely represents the Banner of the West. The spine has 5 double gilt lines representing the striped Nemyss worn during ritual. It also has striped black/gold head and tail bands.

The book opens to hand-marbled endpapers, a mesmerizing display of plum, gold, and emerald. The publisher states,
"Marbled papers by Ann Muir (traditionally made by hand with carrigheen moss and light-fast pigments derived from natural plant extracts, onto a good stock of archival paper), in a typical nineteenth century style whose coloration is chosen to harmonise with the colour scales relevant to the forces of the Grade Ritual of Neophyte under the activity of Thoth between the Pillars of Mercy and Severity."

 Each book also includes a replica of the original bookseller-stationer's label affixed to the top corner of the inner board. This is a real nice touch lending a real sense of history to the book. It is a detail that most publishers would not bother with. Bravo, Hell Fire Club Books.

Detail of  Cogito Ergo Sum's handwriting

The paper is quite nice and of a color and weight typical of the era. Again, to quote the publisher, the paper is, "100% cotton content produced by the prestigious mills of ‘Crane & Company’ who have been making paper since the 1850’s by time honoured methods and to the highest standards." It is printed in full color by offset lithography at the exact size of the original copy. Many of the passages were penned with red ink which comes though vibrantly in this edition. The strokes of the pen come though so clear that it is difficult to distinguish this from an original document. Some of the penmanship can be a bit difficult to read at spots, but overall it is very legible.

Z3 - The Enterer of the Threshold is a fascinating glimpse into the early workings of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Experiencing a work like this in the actual hand of a member gives the reader a marked sense of intimacy and an appreciation for what serious magical practitioners were willing to do to obtain knowledge and enlightenment. How many magical practitioners today would be willing to copy nearly 120 pages by hand? Z3 is an insightful treasure for those interested in the Golden Dawn tradition and a fascinating reproduction for those enamored with Victorian era occultism.

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