The Fraternitas Saturni

Title: The Fraternitas Saturni: History, Doctrine, and Rituals of the Magical Order of the Brotherhood of Saturn
Publisher: Inner Traditions
Author: Stephen E. Flowers
Pages: 224 pp
Price: $18.99 / $12.99

This is a historical work, not a how-to, but it contains enough ritual scrips, explanations of magical theory, and reports on personality conflicts among the leaders for readers to get a pretty good idea of what the Brotherhood of Saturn was doing a hundred years ago. This book will be of most interest to those interested in the history of occultism, but it’s also of interest to those pagans and heathens who would like to be able to recognize which parts of the modern traditions we’ve inherited are influenced at one or more removes by Masonry, via older Masonic-influenced groups, and by the additional magical practices of those groups.

This latest edition of this book is published by Inner Traditions. The first edition, in 1990, came from Llewellyn under the title Fire and Ice: The History, Structure, and Rituals of Germany’s Most Influential Modern Magical Order – The Brotherhood of Saturn. Runa Raven Press did an edition titled The Fraternitas Saturni – or Brotherhood of Saturn: An Introduction to Its History, Philosophy, and Rituals. The full title of this edition is The Fraternitas Saturni: History, Doctrine, and Rituals of the Magical Order of the Brotherhood of Saturn, by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D. The publisher sent me a copy to review.

I was warned that reading this book may attract dark forces, so I took the precaution of keeping it bound closed with a silk ribbon when I wasn’t reading it. I didn’t notice any particular increase in bad energy or beings that needed swatting when I had the book open, though.

The first page of the forward introduces the idea that magical orders claiming unverifiable ancient origins and famous members are ridiculous to the rational mind and cater to the uneducated. I wondered if that was a strawman argument that would be refuted later, but it was not. The introduction goes on to tell that the Lodge recently revised some of its official history due to historical research by outside researchers. The author relates that errors in details like dates are products of the fallibility of human memory. This sets a scholarly tone for the book, rather than the tone of a book of how to work magic. Indeed this book is a work of history, even the ritual scripts, which are based on historical documents. The second introduction makes it clear this is a work of scholarship, and it not merely a reprint but a revised edition which takes into account new information that has become available in the years since the first edition was published.

The Lodge is modeled structurally after a Masonic Lodge. The FS also pulled from other magical traditions, including astrology and Luciferianism. The Fraternitas Saturni has been greatly influential both in its native Germany and in the English-speaking world. 

The first chapter is on the history of the FS. During the Nazi period the FS leaned Nazi, and only initiated Christians during that time. Later in the Nazi time period, the FS was banned along with other such societies. When the FS was reconstituted after the war, it was also reformed and de-Nazified. The degree to which the FS and Nazi occultism influenced each other and how well the FS managed to separate itself from Nazi occult influence after the war would be a question for a different book, since this one sticks mostly to internal FS matters and does not follow the development of the FS into more recent times.

The author outlines the historical influences on the FS of various magical societies, thinkers, and cultures. Its history as an organization includes a lot of personality clashes. Between the history chapter and some information later in the book, the reader will find out the truth about the Illuminate, and it’s not what the popular culture might lead one to think.

Chapter two is on the doctrines of the FS. Flowers not only goes over the Brotherhood’s specific Saturn gnosis, but also delves into what precisely gnosis itself is. This is of great interest for those on any path that includes gnosis. This chapter also tells about egregores, and about the FS’s own egregore, which has the same name as the title of a 33rd degree FS member. The author tells about the FS’s various initiatory practices, and the goals of those practices. Then Flowers tells readers about the cosmological beliefs of the FS and where they came from.

Further chapters outline the esoteric beliefs of the FS. FS brothers who advance high enough are expected to embrace the doctrine “thou art thine own god.” This is an atheistic belief which has continued into some branches of modern day Satanism. It is also echoed in the Church of All World’s ritual phase “thou art god/ goddess.” The CAW is a newly created path based on a book, but the book may have been influenced by older occult practices.

The FS went in for oxymorons in its doctrines, particularly “dark light” and “compassionless love.” They also embraced the Thelemic idea of “true will.” The reader learns what each of the degrees mean. The FS had an interest in technology which was modernistic at the time, such as high frequency sound, UV light, and electromagnetic energy. 

The information on sex magic is sprinkled throughout the book. The first mention of it is merely gender essentialist magical theory of the type one might encounter in Wicca. Eventually there are explicit ritual scripts. These rituals were reserved for 18th degree brothers and sisters of the FS. While I was reading the script of a sex magic ritual which used the term “Odic force” I received gnosis that Odin considers the use of that term in that context to be sacrilegious. 

Appendices constitute a large part of this book. Some are ritual scripts, while others are historical documents such as letters which elucidate the way personalities grew or splintered the organization. For example, there is a text by Crowley explaining his relationship to Pansophia and to Tranker.

In conclusion, this book gives you a look inside the Fraternitas Saturni at a particular point in time, via published historical materials. I recommend it for those interested in the history of European occult groups. I also recommend it for those with an interest in ritual design who are either trying to create something new or alter something old with an eye toward either eliminating or cleaning up Masonic-influenced rituals from their own non-Masonic traditions, and for those pagan and heathen leaders and thinkers attempting to do the same sort of redesigning with magical worldviews.

[Reviewed by Erin Lale.]