Brother Leonardo’s Self-Examination - an occult German lodge lecture from 1933
In my studies on the nature of the Great Work I came across the following article from the archives of an old German occult lodge, the Fraternitas Saturni. Following the Second World War shortly they managed to revive their lodge and initiate a recurring magazine for their members which they kept on going for thirteen consecutive years from 1950 until 1963. In limited editions of roughly 100 prints per magazine they distributed articles on cutting-edge occult research of their practicing members, gnostic philosophy and historic lodge lectures from their early pre-war years of foundation.
Until today these rare magazines remain one of the most essential untranslated resources of the German Occult lore - mixing true gems of secret occult practice, wisdom and knowledge with the crudest examples of chauvinism and abstruse theoretic speculations. As so often in magic and in life one has to be a grown up with one’s own filters and perspectives in order to be able to tell one from the other. Most importantly one needs a lot of occult practice and life experience oneself to distinguish between the two and often quickly alternating categories.
What I am about to share here and for the first time in English language is one of the finest gems of their collections. It is the transcript of a lecture given in 1933 by a German Jewish magician and lodge member by the name of Brother Leonardo. In fact it is the second lecture of his in a small series. I will share the speech without any long introductions. For whatever it is worth to other people, this lecture in my eyes deserves to stand on its own, to speak for itself and to find ears that can hear wherever you may life.
Just let me say this in terms of context, especially for my non-German readers: 1933, the year during which Brother Leonardo holds this lecture, marks the darkest, self-inflicted turning point in the history of the German people: It is the year during which Adolf Hitler and his political party, the NSDAP rise to power. Within weeks of their election they begin to tear down the democratic structures of the country and manage to create a de-facto dictatorship for the ‘Reichs-Chancellor’, Hitler himself. Immediately in spring of 1933 the first concentration camp is erected in Dachau, about 30min north of Munich and an hours drive from where I life today. Government-organised and widespread boycott of Jewish businesses follows shortly. A secret state police is founded later in the year; all workers unions are officially forbidden and their offices closed down. On the 10th of May of 1933 twenty-thousand books are publicly burned in Berlin - the first of many book burnings across the country. And the beginning of thirteen years of terror.
Note: I should mention that I am not a professional translator of course. The German language of Brother Leonardo is quite beautiful and strange, often lacking clear syntax and leaving the meaning of a sentence somewhat open. Thus I strongly recommend for all German readers to get a copy of the full collection of ‘Blätter für angewandte okkulte Lebenskunst’. However, I want to call out a particular challenge in translating this text: The German term ‘Besinnung’ has many different meanings in English. It can be translated as all of the following: consciousness, reflection, self-examination, reflexion or consideration. The German title of this lecture is ‘Selbst-Besinnung’ which I chose to translate as ‘Self-Examination’. What might be lost in this translation, unfortunately, is the strong spiritual connotation of the German word - alluding to a change in one’s life path and a remembering of old virtues.
A lecture by Br. Leonardo in the grade of Mercurii
Given in the year 7. of the Revelation,
Sun in 12° Capricorn. Approved by the Master of the Chair, 1933
It is no coincidence that this lecture presents a frame, a structure centred on the term of ‘meaning’. (…) We have all the reason for self-examination, today more than ever. Every day comes with a new decision. Every day comes with the separation from something. It is this separation which is the actual meaning of a decision! Still, in the beginning one does good in taking a very egocentric, or shall we say self-conscious attitude towards these decisions and resolutions.
Self-examination! There in front of me rests another book, a book by Meister Ekkehart. I read: ‘Every dispersed power is incomplete.’ And further: ‘By yourself you need to find your way into yourself. Because it is that within you lies the truth that no one can find who is looking for it on the outside.’
In this manner I could list examples over examples from the book by Meister Ekkehart. I grabbed another of my books. Randomly I opened its pages, and lo! here is what I find in the Ethics of Spinoza: ‘It is within the nature of reason to understand things not as random but as necessary.’ Could it not have been that this sentence had only been written yesterday, with our own time in mind?
One could say these are all commonplaces. For sure. Yet isn’t it the case that exactly because of all the complex and heavy discussions and thinking we are undertaking we have lost access to the simple and lost access to the path of simplicity that leads into ourselves.
For the mindful man nothing is more painful than to see how the mind is trampled underfoot, how man’s dignity and men’s lives are disregarded and how men of high spirits are treated disgracefully. We could clench the fist in the pocket, yet that is already done too often and even more importantly it is wrong. We finally should come to terms with the fact that man has not and will not recognise his important minds and spiritual fighters; it is only much later that value is attributed to their insights and often it is too late. Man has allowed for its best brains to starve to death or to die in poverty. One just has to think of Paracelsus and his unusual path of thorns! One crucified Christ, burned Huss on the pyre and killed Walter Rathenau.
In recent centuries millions of men have been killed because of their faith and spiritual convictions. Thousands of examples would lend themselves, even in our current time, the time of the concentration camps, of gassing people and the over-crowded prisons of dictators. Fratricide is one of the largest sins against God which mankind repeats over and over again; however, an even greater crime is the conscious murder of human intelligence. On the other hand often it is the forced upon fight of survival that grants the strangest wisdom and the force to come up with outstanding creations; it has been meaningful after all.
Self-examination: It is here that the spiritual claim of Master Therion belongs:
‘EVERYTHING YOU DO MUST BE DONE CONSCIOUSLY!’
We have to be conscious about the Whereto! Whoever is suffocated by everyday life, whoever passively follows the stream of life, is already lost. Not lost to the world itself as for this they might still provide soil or sacrifice. Yet most people have lost themselves in such a way. It is their own path that they have squandered. We often recognise how pathetic it is to fumble around like this day in and day out. Just like Master Gregorius mentioned only recently: ‘We often waste our so precious time! Everything is eaten by the moloch of time. We know the goal, yet fog is covering the valley and we have lost sight of the height; we freeze and erode in the depth.’
Yes, of course I am aware of the objections: You say this is nothing new to us and it offers no escape. We will just have to bear it. Yet, this is no reason. It certainly is no reason, no ground not to try again and again to tear this despicable something back into the realm of light, into the realm of cathartic realisation.
Self-examination: Where to begin? Is this something to be discussed openly? Isn’t this something each one of us has to resolve for and within themselves? Yes and No! Many a things have to be said.
What drenches the blood from our veins, what turns our nights into days, often is the hardship of survival, the material fight for existence, the concern for being. Yet at some point it has to be stated openly: Just like our present is today, so will it also be in our future in the next twenty years. In twenty years we will be standing on a very similar platform like today. Except for a few people, man for all of his life remains slave to work and money. And yet there is something we can do. We are spoiled! We have countless desires. We cannot be - or imagine ourselves not being able to be - without this and that. We will have to learn to own even less! Certainly that is no consolation and isn’t meant as such; yet at least it is a hint to free ourselves from the ever enslaving matter. Belongings burden! Being open to one’s fate shouldn’t and cannot mean we are without power. Yet, such openness can help us understand that true power only begins where matter ends. Such realisation shouldn’t hinder us to master and form matter; yet it should help us to understand its imperfection at the same time.
Self-examination: We almost need to begin all over again. Everyone on their own. And such new beginning is nothing but another point in the almost eternal path of our karma. As long as we cannot be free of everything, we are burdened and not of riches in our soul. This is not just words. Nobody shall come and say: ‘This cannot be the solution to everything, for us to suffer physically.’ This is where faith begins. Whoever cannot follow now, may rest. But for every man who has reached a certain level of maturity there is way to become free of the burden of matter. This is not asking for the extreme. The emphasis is on the word ‘burden’ and the binding through matter. Belongings make unfree. A being satisfied with what one owns already is what it takes. It is not much that it takes to live a humble everyday life! Everything beyond this point is unnecessary. Man is truly free, once he has realised this one thing: that matter stops being the main focus point of his life and begins to turn into a necessity confined to its minimal requirements for survival. This is when he is approached by the great dark hour of the death of his material desires, which used to determine belongings, power and money until then. And this is where he rests, almost turned to stone within himself, and everything else - once taken as everything in his life - passes by him like a heavy wind. He now knows; his eyes do not close again, his hands do not grasp again to acquire but only to impact. His eyes now look behind the veil. This is how this process forms but one part of self-determination which leads to the setting free of oneself from the demon of belongings.
Despite his friends the spiritual man often is by himself. For the largest part of his path he has to walk alone. Even the brotherhood is only support. This is where good books are supposed to be our companions. We cannot put things radically to the test, but we can examine these books, our companions, very closely with regards to their value or lack thereof. And this is where a very practical way of self-examination begins. How much does the modern man gather in all his readings, how much is consumed randomly, without rest, without examination. It is the craving of the body transferred to the mind. This is how we are made to face the consequences of an overfeeding of the brain and loose the art of musing with our books, our true friends. We read too much, too quickly.
Self-examination: How many do not life their everyday lives like they would be supposed to as powerful, self-confident humans. How many of us bow and bend down continuously, crouch and remain silent for love of peace, may it be at work or may it be in marriage. While we claim justice from our fate we ourselves so often behave like children playing with their puppets. Or we allow that we are played with as if we were puppets. If we are unable to form our lives, to take charge like our human dignity requests it, then we can confidently throw all our books - that were meant to be counsellors - into the flames and dry our hands at the pyre. It often is a grotesque that seems without end. We know we are failing, yet often we fail to even show the courage or the will, not even the energy to end in the optimal way once and forever with what we know to be wrong.
We claim justice from our fate, and forget that we are taking punches for very good reasons. At one point finally we will need to make up our minds and we will need to part with everything that is weak within and around us. With all ballast, with everything that is old and powerless. And with this even for our small circle there is a task. By consciously listening to the ritual, by listening to lectures we certainly don’t fulfil the meaning of community in our time. More has to be asked for and more has to be fulfilled. Otherwise the lodge may well fail because of this very reason. Such failure can happen almost instantly. Enough is splintering around us already and the demonism of the dark demiurge is more powerful than ever. We know, his full appearance is still ahead of us. It may well be that even we need to turn out the lights and then everyone will be on their own. Then everybody has to suffice themselves.
Self-examination: About this matter no more questions should and will be necessary in the future. Many a things I had to say. They may sound harsh or exaggerated; yet they are intended to create clarity for each one of us and amongst our community. We are running out of time! We mustn’t be lukewarm whatever we do, whatever we hope and think; it is without use if it is without self-examination. And it is this that should give us clarity about our actions and the necessity of our deeds. Elsewise many a raw stones will be shattered. The adversary is damn cruel.
Self-examination: self-limitation but followed by commitment of the whole. Self-examination until we reach absolute I-Becoming. How did the great fighter Nietzsche say:
‘We shall become they who we are, the New ones, the Unique ones, the Incomparable ones, the Self-Law-Giving ones, the Self-Creating ones.`
Maybe it is my own German heritage that makes this post so important to me?
After all, I am a German magician of non-Jewish descent who is publishing a lecture of a German Jewish magician from the early 1930s. A lecture of a man who was honest enough to call things how they were, courageous enough to predict how bad they would become and ethical enough to tell exactly what it would take to remain human while going through them… — Six years later Brother Leonardo published an appendix to this lecture, a sad realisation that his worst fears had come true.
In light of all this dark history I’d like to tell myself a story. And the story would go like this: This man, Brother Leonardo and I form links in the same chain. A chain that is concerned with magic, with the Great Work and with the German land. We are separated by six million dead Jews. We are separated by deeds that cannot be undone. We are separated by thirteen years of terror and almost seventy years of struggling with its scars and its demonic memories… I’d like to tell myself the story that if only I reach back far enough in my own blood, in my own history, I can reach the hand of Brother Leonardo. I can reach his hand and form a grip - between him and me, between his time and mine. And together we become a bridge over which all things can travel - all things that Brother Leonardo aimed to uphold in the wake of the Nazi regime, all things that he hoped for us to remember.
I'dI like to tell myself the story that publishing this small article, that bringing to life again this voice is but one step in our joint Great Work - his and mine and all of ours on the German land. Because his call will be heard. And not all stones have been shattered.