By Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero
“…it is essential that the whole (Golden Dawn) system should be publicly exhibited so that it may not be lost to mankind. For it is the heritage of every man and woman—their spiritual birthright.”
– Israel Regardie, My Rosicrucian Adventure
“Since 1920 Dr. Regardie has done much to remove the excessive secrecy surrounding modern occultism.”
– David Conway, The Complete Magic Primer
“A number of people have asked how Regardie stacked up against the higher Grades of the Stella Matutina. Having met a number of people who claimed 8=3 and one of 9=2 rank…, I would safely say he was far ahead of them in technical expertise that they could not be considered in the same league as he.”
– Pat Zalewski, The Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn
“That the rebirth of occult magic has taken place in the way it has can be very largely attributed to the writings of one man, Dr. Francis Israel Regardie.”
– Francis King and Isabel Sutherland, The Rebirth of Magic
Francis Israel Regardie
(né Regudy; November 17, 1907 – March 10, 1985)
Before his death on March 10th, 1985, Israel Regardie was considered by many people to be the last living Adept of an illustrious magical current known as The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The tradition represented by the Golden Dawn and its two later incarnations, the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega, which were created after the original Order split into various factions, attracted many influential occultists of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Among these were Dr. William W. Westcott, Samuel L. Mathers, Arthur Edward Waite, William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley, and Dion Fortune. Yet even among this extraordinary ensemble of knowledgeable magicians, Regardie ranks high as an authority of prominence.
The son of poor Jewish immigrants, Israel Regudy, was born in London on November 17, 1907. During WWI, an older brother joined the army and his surname was accidentally marked down as “Regardie.” This was adopted as the family name. His family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1921 when he was 13 years old. Early on, he cultivated an interest in the theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky, yoga, and Hindu philosophy. Regardie often visited the Library of Congress, which he called “his second home.” Not long after, Regardie found a Hebrew tutor and learned to read Hebrew effortlessly, a ability that would aid him enormously in his Qabalistic studies. He applied for membership to the Washington College of the SRIA (Societas Rosicruciana in America) on February 18, 1926. He was initiated into the Neophyte grade on March 18, 1926, and advanced to the Zelator grade on June 2, 1927.
Around 1925 or 1926, Regardie discovered a book which aroused his curiosity. The book was Part One of Book Four by Aleister Crowley. Regardie wrote to Crowley in Paris and eventually received a reply to his inquiry. Soon after, Crowley offered him a job as his secretary in Paris. The young Regardie saw this as a opportunity to learn magic from a published authority, and so in October of 1928, Regardie went to France to accept the job. For the next three years, Regardie tried to get his employer to teach him the magical arts. However, Crowley did not offer to teach Regardie either magic or yoga, and Regardie, a reserved and modest young man, did not pursue the matter. Instead he continued to study magic on his own, reading every magical book, article or manuscript that was available to him.
Crowley’s reputation, fueled by the British tabloids, eventually got him in trouble with the French authorities and he had to leave the country. A few months later, Regardie joined him in England. However, Crowley’s publisher went bankrupt and as a result, he could no longer afford to keep Regardie on as his secretary. Regardie and Crowley drifted apart and later had a complete falling out. Regardie was deeply wounded by the breakup of the friendship and was only able to pardon Crowley in his later years. Many years earlier he tried to repair Crowley’s tarnished public image by co-authoring a book called The Legend of Aleister Crowley (1930). Regardie’s later books offered a more balanced and matured view of Crowley than did his earlier works. Regardie’s charitable nature and his ability to be forgiving toward his old friend was evident in such works as The Eye in the Triangle. But he was also irritated when people linked him solely to Crowley’s teachings. “One of his pet hates,” writes Pat Zalewski, “was people associating him with Crowley’s brand of Thelemic Magic, and the Book of the Law….I can still recall him thumping the table at dinner one night saying ‘Dammit, I’m a Golden Dawn man and not a Thelemite, and I wish people would realize it.’ He did, however, hold a lot of respect for McMurtry and some of the abilities of the O.T.O.“ In any event, Regardie had many friends and associates in the Thelemic community.
Regardie published his two books, A Garden of Pomegranates and The Tree of Life in 1932. The first book contained Regardie’s Qabalistic studies based upon his own research from various sources. The Tree of Life is considered one of the most complete and understandable texts on practical magic ever written. This text was essentially a restatement of Golden Dawn teachings. When The Tree of Life was published, it caused a lot of excitement among esoteric circles. Although the Golden Dawn had ceased to exist in 1903, it continued to live on in its descendant orders, the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega. With the encouragement and assistance of Dion Fortune, Regardie joined the Stella Matutina.
Many members of both the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega remembered Crowley as a disruptive insurgent from years before, therefore Regardie’s previous connection to Crowley caused some members to lash out at him. One of the leaders of the Alpha et Omega, E. J. Langford-Garstin, went so far as to write Regardie in a letter condemning him in no uncertain terms and asking him to never again mention the name of the Golden Dawn in print. Other members, most notably Dion Fortune, defended him as can be seen from her article in the Occult Review, praising Regardie’s The Tree of Life. Her article did more to reveal the true essence of the Golden Dawn, and to a broader audience, than anyone had divulged previously. The chiefs of the Stella Matutina seemed to play both ends against the middle. A representative of the Order wrote a letter to Dion Fortune strongly agreeing with her viewpoint, and another letter to Langford-Garstin which stated how irresponsible he considered Dion Fortune’s actions and sentiments to be. In one of the great faux pas in the history of esoteric groups, the two letters ended up in the wrong envelopes.
As a result, the door of initiation swung open for Regardie. With Dion Fortune’s support, he was invited to join the Stella Matutina. In his words: “It was on the basis of The Tree of Life, that I was invited to join the Order.” In 1933, Regardie joined the Order and made rapid progress through the grades due to his extraordinary abilities. However, in 1933 the order was in an advanced state of decline. Regardie was extremely vexed with the chiefs of the Stella Matutina for being far too concerned with attaining grandiose titles and not concerned enough with the practice of magic. He concluded that the Order and its teachings would not survive much longer without some effort to place those teachings in the hands of a greater number of people who could appreciate them. After attaining to the grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor, Regardie left the Order in December of 1934. In 1937 he published the bulk of the Golden Dawn’s rituals and teachings in four volumes called simply The Golden Dawn. Regardie made his reasons for publishing these teachings well known to interested readers:
“…it is essential that the whole system should be publicly exhibited so that it may not be lost to mankind. For it is the heritage of every man and woman—their spiritual birthright.” …”My motives have been to prove without a doubt that no longer is the Order the ideal medium for the transmission of Magic, and that since there have already been several partial and irresponsible disclosures of the Order teaching, a more adequate presentation of that system is urgently called for. Only thus may the widespread misconceptions as to Magic be removed.”
– My Rosicrucian Adventure (1936)
Throughout history, many courageous individuals have had to make difficult choices which effect great numbers of people. Regardie’s choice was this: keep his oath of secrecy to those who were letting the Order lapse into a severe state of neglect, or publish them and suffer criticism but be assured that the system itself would survive. Because of Regardie’s difficult and unselfish decision to break his oath of secrecy to a lethargic and dying Order, the valuable teachings of the Golden Dawn became available to all true seekers, regardless of their education, background, location, circumstances, or personal finances.
Some people openly criticized Regardie for his actions, although many Adepts of the Order were secretly grateful to him at the time. A small number predicted that some dire consequence would befall Regardie for his action. It didn’t. And just as Regardie had foreseen, a few years later most temples of the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega slowly atrophied and disappeared. In the name of secrecy and elitism, many misguided temple chiefs had the appalling habit of destroying Order documents, rather than passing them on to a new generation of seekers. Regardie’s decision was obviously the right one. But because of Regardie’s actions, all students of magic today owe him a enormous debt of gratitude. Today, a growing number of authors are writing books designed to make the teachings of the Golden Dawn more accessible. Today, more people than ever now refer to themselves as “practicing Golden Dawn magicians.” Some work in groups, others in private. But all of them should be thankful for the foresight of Israel Regardie. As one authority states:
“…most of the curriculum of the Golden Dawn through the Subgrade of Zelator Adeptus Minor has been publicly available for half a century, and none of the problems of the modern world are even remotely connected with the release of that knowledge, and while there is certainly power in those teachings, it is not a dangerous power; the Mysteries entrusted to the Order are connected with spiritual growth and evolution, and the last thing from which Western civilization needs to be protected is spiritual growth and evolution.”1
Regardie also practiced what he preached. Having recently acquired the former archives of the Israel Regardie Foundation, and having seen the vast amount of personal work and research that Regardie did in the areas of Qabalah, Psychology, and Enochian Magic, we can certainly testify to fact that he was no mere armchair occultist—he was a first-rate Theurgist and an expert in the field of magic.
In 1936-37, Regardie wrote The Philosopher’s Stone, a book about alchemy from a Jungian perspective. At the time he did not believe in the validity of laboratory alchemy. (Working with practical alchemists such as Frater Albertus of the Paracelsus Research Society in the 1970’s caused him to change his mind on the matter in his later years. Unfortunately, one of Regardie’s alchemical experiments went wrong and he seriously burned his lungs in the lab. He gave up the practice of alchemy and suffered from the effects of the accident until the end of his life.) Regardie returned to the U.S. in 1937, where he studied psychology and psychotherapy. Previously in London, he had studied psychoanalysis with Dr. E. Clegg and Dr. J. L. Bendit. Later, he studied psychotherapy under Dr. Nandor Fodor. He entered the Chiropractic College of New York City to study psychology. His training encompassed the techniques of Freud, Jung, and Reich. After graduating in 1941, he took up practice as a lay analyst.
In 1938, he published The Middle Pillar, which gave step-by-step details on how to perform practical exercises of Golden Dawn ceremonial magic. In the same book, Regardie compared these magical techniques to the methods and hypotheses of psychoanalysis. He sought to remove the synthetic walls that had been erected between magic and psychotherapy. For a time Regardie explored Christian mysticism, and wrote about his ideas in The Romance of Metaphysics.
In 1947, Regardie relocated to California and set up practice as a chiropractor and a Reichian therapist. He taught psychiatry at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and contributed articles to various psychology magazines. He also wrote several more books including: The Art and Meaning of Magic, Roll Away the Stone, Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment, A Practical Guide to Geomantic Divination, How to Make and Use Talismans, and Foundations of Practical Magic. Regardie retired from his practice in 1981 and moved to Sedona, Arizona where he continued to write. His later books included Ceremonial Magic, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Relaxation, and The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic.
One of Regardie’s primary objectives was to preserve the teachings of the Golden Dawn. But in addition to this, he had another task:
“The second significant task carried out by Regardie was, as an Adept, to bring a valid branch of the initiatory lineage of the Golden Dawn to America the alchemical melting pot where the New Age was incubating. Such tasks are not always easy. A. M. A. G. waited here four decades until the threads of the pattern came together. Then, in one of those graceful synchronicities which often play midwife to significant magical events, a couple in Georgia were inspired—at that time scarcely aware of what they were undertaking—to build a Rosicrucian Vault, the powerful ritual chamber required to pass on the Adept Initiation, at precisely the time when two magicians (one on the east coast of the United States and one on the west coast), unknown to each other or to the Georgia couple, came to be ready to receive that Initiation. And A. M. A. G., with the right to confer the Initiation in such a Vault, was the connecting link among them. And so, in one remarkable weekend, Regardie presided over two Initiations into the Inner Order, the first and the last which he ever performed; and the Lamp of the Keryx was passed into American hands.”2
Regardie continued to give advice on health and magical matters until the end of his life. He died of a heart attack on March 10th, 1985 while having dinner with friends at one of his favorite restaurants. Although now he is gone, his written works, which many will agree are refreshing, inspiring, and down-to-earth, continue to teach and inspire new generations of students.
- Adam P. Forrest, in the Epilogue of Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple, (pages 540–541) reprinted as the Foreword to Ritual Use of Magical Tools (page xx).
- Ibid. Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple (page 541), Ritual Use of Magical Tools (page xx–xxi).