Florence Beatrice Farr

(1860-1917)



Florence Farr was an imporant figure in the Golden Dawn, not alone due to her status as a woman during a time when female participation in such Orders was a highly unusual phenomenon. She was initiated into the Isis-Urania Temple of the Order in 1890 and chose the motto Sapienta Sapienti Dono Data, “wisdom is a gift given to the wise.” By the following Winter Solstice she had already been advanced to the Adepta Minor degree, only the second person in the Order to advance to that level. By 1892 she was made Praemonstratix and revised some of the rituals of the Order. Farr is also responsible for writing or rewriting some of the Flying Rolls instructional material of the Order, including papers on “Travelling in the Spirit Vision” and others. At Westcott's resignation in 1897, Florence Farr became the Chief Adept in England of the Order for a period of time, and was noted for having denied Aleister Crowley his advancement to the 5=6 degree. Political and personality conflicts within the Order led to her resignation in 1902.

Florence attended the first woman's college in England, Queen's College, but after a brief period of teaching after graduation turned her aspirations to the stage. Her figure, voice and independent streak attracted the attentions of playwright George Bernard Shaw who saw in her his ideal of the coming 20th Century woman. Fellow G.D. member William Butler Yeats was equally impressed by her presence and acuity, and Aleister Crowley must have been taken with her, as he based the character of Soror Cybele (in his novel Moonchild) upon Florence. Florence returned Shaw's and Yeats' confidence in her by helping each of them in their literary work, but turned out to be an obstruction for Crowley as noted above. In Yeats' play “The Countess Cathleen,” Florence plays a woman with psychic vision; Shaw, on the other hand, was bitterly disappointed by Florence's interest in the occult and magical practice, mocking her in his play “Caesar and Cleopatra.”

Regardless of the criticisms of sceptics of Shaw, Farr was an adept skryer, at one point having established contact with a disembodied entity which Mather took to be one of the Secret Chiefs, a Priestess of the temple of Amon at Thebes. Soon after came an important invocation of Taphthartharath, the spirit of Mercury, resulting in Florence's assumption of the mystical form of Thoth.

In addition to the above-mentioned rewriting of Order instructional materials, Farr was also a prolific writer of novels and articles on the occult and other subjects; her work appeared in journals such as the Occult Review and the Theosophical Review. She wrote commentaries on alchemical and qabalistic texts, and her book The Way of Wisdom is an early endeavor to link the mystical significance of the Hebrew alphabet with Oriental traditions. Her monograph on Egyptian Magic is also worthy of study.

Florence Farr toured the United States in 1907 in a bid to further her career as a stage actress. Later, perhaps seeking further spiritual wisdom and evolution, she moved to Sri Lanka and returned to teaching for a several years before her death there.

 

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