Order of the Golden Dawn
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about
the historical organization of the late 19th century. For other
meanings, see Golden
The Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn (or, more commonly, The
Golden Dawn) was an organization devoted
to the study and practice of the occult,
activities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as a
order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was active in Great
Britain and focused its practices on theurgy
and spiritual development. Many present-day concepts of ritual and
that are at the centre of contemporary traditions, such as
were inspired by the Golden Dawn, which became one of the largest
single influences on 20th-century Western occultism.
The three founders,
Robert Woodman, William
Wynn Westcott, and Samuel
Liddell MacGregor Mathers, were Freemasons
and members of Societas
Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.).
Westcott appears to have been the initial driving force behind the
establishment of the Golden Dawn.
The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and
initiation like the Masonic
Lodges; however women were admitted on an equal basis with men.
The "Golden Dawn" was the first of three Orders, although
all three are often collectively referred to as the "Golden
Dawn". The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the
Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of
Classical Elements as well as the basics of astrology,
divination, and geomancy.
The Second or "Inner" Order, the Rosae
Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose
and Cross of Gold), taught proper magic, including scrying,
travel, and alchemy.
The Third Order was that of the "Secret
Chiefs", who were said to be highly skilled; they
supposedly directed the activities of the lower two orders by spirit
communication with the Chiefs of the Second Order.
Influences on Golden Dawn concepts and work include: Christian
Egyptian religion, Theurgy,
John Dee & Edward Kelly, Enochian
magic, and Renaissance
well as Anna
Kingsford & Frederick
Main article: Cipher
Folio 13 of the Cipher
The foundational documents of the original Order of the Golden
Dawn, known as the Cipher
Manuscripts, are written in English using Trithemius
cipher. The manuscripts give the specific outlines of the Grade
Rituals of the Order and prescribe a curriculum of graduated
teachings that encompass the Hermetic
According to the records of the Order, the manuscripts passed from
R. H. Mackenzie, a Masonic scholar, to the Rev. A.
F. A. Woodford, whom British occult writer Francis
King describes as the fourth founder
(although Woodford died shortly after the Order was founded).
The documents did not excite Woodford, and in February 1886 he passed
them on to Freemason William
Wynn Westcott, who managed to decode them in 1887.
Westcott, pleased with his discovery, called on fellow Freemason
Liddell MacGregor Mathers for a second opinion. Westcott asked
for Mathers' help to turn the manuscripts into a coherent system for
lodge work. Mathers in turn asked fellow Freemason William
Robert Woodman to assist the two, and he accepted.
Mathers and Westcott have been credited with developing the ritual
outlines in the Cipher Manuscripts into a workable format.
Mathers, however, is generally credited with the design of the
curriculum and rituals of the Second Order, which he called the Rosae
Rubae et Aureae Crucis ("Ruby Rose and Golden Cross" or
the RR et AC).
Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers in Egyptian setup performing a
ritual in hermetic order of the Golden Dawn.
of first temple
In October 1887, Westcott claimed to have written to a German
countess and prominent Rosicrucian named Anna
Sprengel, whose address was said to have been found in the
decoded Cipher Manuscripts. According to Westcott, Sprengel claimed
the ability to contact certain supernatural entities, known as the
that were considered the authorities over any magical order or
esoteric organization. Westcott purportedly received a reply from
Sprengel granting permission to establish a Golden Dawn temple and
conferring honorary grades of Adeptus
Exemptus on Westcott, Mathers, and Woodman. The temple was to
consist of the five grades outlined in the manuscripts.
In 1888, the Isis-Urania
Temple was founded in London.
In contrast to the S.R.I.A. and Masonry,
women were allowed and welcome to participate in the Order in
"perfect equality" with men. The Order was more of a
philosophical and metaphysical teaching order in its early years.
Other than certain rituals and meditations found in the Cipher
manuscripts and developed further,
"magical practices" were generally not taught at the first
For the first four years, the Golden Dawn was one cohesive group
later known as "the Outer Order" or "First Order."
An "Inner Order" was established and became active in 1892.
The Inner Order consisted of members known as "adepts," who
had completed the entire course of study for the Outer Order. This
group of adepts eventually became known as the Second Order.[citation
Eventually, the Osiris temple in
the Horus temple in Bradford
(both in 1888), and the Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh
(1893) were founded. In 1893 Mathers founded the Ahathoor temple in
Main article: Secret
In 1891, Westcott's alleged correspondence with Anna Sprengel
suddenly ceased. He claimed to have received word from Germany that
she was either dead or that her companions did not approve of the
founding of the Order and no further contact was to be made. If the
founders were to contact the Secret
Chiefs, apparently, it had to be done on their own.
In 1892, Mathers professed that a link to the Secret Chiefs had been
established. Subsequently, he supplied rituals for the Second Order,
calling them the Red Rose and Cross of Gold.
The rituals were based on the tradition of the tomb of Christian
Rosenkreuz, and a Vault of Adepts became the controlling
force behind the Outer Order.
Later in 1916, Westcott claimed that Mathers also constructed these
rituals from materials he received from Frater Lux ex Tenebris, a
purported Continental Adept.
of the Golden Dawn tradition believe that the Secret Chiefs were not
human or supernatural beings but, rather, symbolic representations of
actual or legendary sources of spiritual esotericism. The term came
to stand for a great leader or teacher of a spiritual path or
practice that found its way into the teachings of the Order.
By the mid-1890s, the Golden Dawn
was well established in Great Britain, with over one hundred members
from every class of Victorian
Many celebrities belonged to the Golden Dawn, such as the actress
the Irish revolutionary Maud
Gonne, the Irish poet William
Butler Yeats, the Welsh author Arthur
Machen, and the English authors Evelyn
Underhill and Aleister
In 1896 or 1897, Westcott broke all ties
to the Golden Dawn, leaving Mathers in control. It has been
speculated that his departure was due to his having lost a number of
occult-related papers in a hansom
cab. Apparently, when the papers were found, Westcott's
connection to the Golden Dawn was discovered and brought to the
attention of his employers. He may have been told to either resign
from the Order or to give up his occupation as coroner.
After Westcott's departure, Mathers appointed Florence Farr to be
Chief Adept in Anglia. Dr. Henry
B. Pullen Burry succeeded Westcott as Cancellarius—one of
the three Chiefs of the Order.
Mathers was the only active founding
member after Westcott's departure. Due to personality clashes with
other members and frequent absences from the center of Lodge activity
in Great Britain, however, challenges to Mathers's authority as
leader developed among the members of the Second Order.
Toward the end of 1899, the Adepts of the Isis-Urania and Amen-Ra
temples had become dissatisfied with Mathers' leadership, as well as
his growing friendship with Aleister
Crowley. They had also become anxious to make contact with the
Secret Chiefs themselves, instead of relying on Mathers as an
Within the Isis-Urania temple, disputes were arising between Farr's
The Sphere, a secret society within the Isis-Urania, and the
rest of the Adepti Minores.
Crowley was refused initiation into the Adeptus Minor grade by the
London officials. Mathers overrode their decision and quickly
initiated him at the Ahathoor temple in Paris on January 16,
Upon his return to the London temple, Crowley requested from Miss
Cracknell, the acting secretary, the papers acknowledging his grade,
to which he was now entitled. To the London Adepts, this was the
final straw. Farr, already of the opinion that the London temple
should be closed, wrote to Mathers expressing her wish to resign as
his representative, although she was willing to carry on until a
successor was found.
Mathers believed Westcott was behind this turn of events and replied
on February 16. On March 3, a committee of seven Adepts was elected
in London, and requested a full investigation of the matter. Mathers
sent an immediate reply, declining to provide proof, refusing to
acknowledge the London temple, and dismissing Farr as his
representative on March 23.
In response, a general meeting was called on March 29 in London to
remove Mathers as chief and expel him from the Order.
In 1901, W. B. Yeats privately published a pamphlet titled Is the
Order of R. R. & A. C. to Remain a Magical Order?
After the Isis-Urania temple claimed its independence, there were
even more disputes, leading to Yeats resigning.
A committee of three was to temporarily govern, which included P.W.
Bullock, M.W. Blackden and J.
W. Brodie-Innes. After a short time, Bullock resigned, and Dr.
took his place.
In 1903, A.E.
Waite and Blackden joined forces to retain the name Isis-Urania,
while Felkin and other London members formed the Stella
Matutina. Yeats remained in the Stella Matutina until 1921, while
Brodie-Innes continued his Amen-Ra membership in Edinburgh.
Once Mathers realised that reconciliation was impossible, he made
efforts to reestablish himself in London. The Bradford and
Weston-super-Mare temples remained loyal to him, but their numbers
He then appointed Edward
Berridge as his representative.
According to Francis King, historical evidence shows that there were
"twenty three members of a flourishing Second Order under
Berridge-Mathers in 1913."
J.W. Brodie-Innes continued leading the Amen-Ra temple, deciding that
the revolt was unjustified. By 1908, Mathers and Brodie-Innes were in
According to sources that differ regarding the actual date, sometime
between 1901 and 1913 Mathers renamed the branch of the Golden Dawn
remaining loyal to his leadership to Alpha
Brodie-Innes assumed command of the English and Scottish temples,
while Mathers concentrated on building up his Ahathoor temple and
extending his American connections.
According to occultist Israel
Regardie, the Golden Dawn had spread to the United
States of America before 1900 and a Thoth-Hermes temple had been
founded in Chicago.
By the beginning of the First
World War in 1914, Mathers had established two to three American
Most temples of the Alpha et Omega and Stella Matutina closed or went
into abeyance by the end of the 1930s, with the exceptions of two
Stella Matutina temples: Hermes Temple in Bristol,
which operated sporadically until 1970, and the Smaragdum Thallasses
Temple (commonly referred to as Whare
Ra) in Havelock
Zealand, which operated regularly until its closure in
of the Golden Dawn
Much of the hierarchical structure for
the Golden dawn came from the Societas
Rosicruciana in Anglia, which was itself derived from the Order
of the Golden and Rosy Cross.
- First Order
- Second Order
Adeptus Minor 5=6
Adeptus Major 6=5
Adeptus Exemptus 7=4
- Third Order
Magister Templi 8=3
The paired numbers attached to the Grades relate to positions on
the Tree of Life. The Neophyte Grade of "0=0" indicates no
position on the Tree. In the other pairs, the first numeral is the
number of steps up from the bottom (Malkuth), and the second numeral
is the number of steps down from the top (Kether).
The First Order Grades were related to the four
elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, respectively. The
Aspirant to a Grade received instruction on the metaphysical meaning
of each of these Elements and had to pass a written examination and
demonstrate certain skills to receive admission to that Grade.
The Portal Grade was an "Invisible"
or in-between grade separating the First Order from the Second
The Circle of existing Adepts from the Second Order had to consent to
allow an Aspirant to be initiated as an Adept and join the Second
The Second Order was not, properly, part of the "Golden
Dawn", but a separate Order in its own right, known as the R.R.
et A.C. The Second Order directed the teachings of the First Order
and was the governing force behind the First Order.
After passing the Portal, the Aspirant was instructed in the
techniques of practical magic. When another examination was passed,
and the other Adepts consented, the Aspirant attained the Grade of
Adeptus Minor (5=6). There were also four sub-Grades of instruction
for the Adeptus Minor, again relating to the four Outer Order grades.
A member of the Second Order had the power and authority to
initiate aspirants to the First Order, though usually not without the
permission of the Chiefs of his or her Lodge.
The encyclopedic text The Golden
Dawn, by Israel Regardie, has been the most intensively used
source for modern western occult and magical practice.[citation
in citation given]
Echols (1985–Present), One of the West Memphis Three 
Allgood (1879–1950), Irish stage actress and later film
actress in America
Henry Allan Bennett (1872–1923), best known for
to the West
Bennett (1867–1931), British novelist
W. Berridge (ca. 1843–1923), British homeopathic
Blackwood (1869–1951), English writer and radio
broadcaster of supernatural stories
de Brémont, American-born singer and writer.
Crowley (1875–1947), occultist, writer and mountaineer,
founder of his own magical society.
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), author of Sherlock Holmes,
doctor, scientist, and Spiritualist.
(1860–1917), London stage actress and musician
Felkin (1853–1925), medical missionary, explorer and
anthropologist in Central Africa, author
Fortune was not an original member of the Golden Dawn, rather a
member of the offshoot Golden Dawn order the Stella Matutina. Dion
Fortune Founded the Society of Inner Light.
Leigh Gardner (1857–1930), British stock broker and
occultist; published three-volume bibliography Catalogue Raisonné
of Works on the Occult Sciences (1912)
Gonne (1866–1953), Irish revolutionary, actress.
Horniman (1860–1937), British repertory theatre producer
and pioneer; member of the wealthy Horniman family of
Machen (1863–1947), leading London writer of the 1890s,
author of acclaimed works of imaginative and occult fiction, such as
"The Great God Pan", "The White People" and "The
Hill of Dreams". Welsh by birth and upbringing.
Meyrink (1868–1932), Austrian author, storyteller,
dramatist, translator, banker, and Buddhist
Nesbit (1858–1924), real name Edith Bland; English author
and political activist
Regardie was not a member of the original Golden Dawn, but
rather of the Stella
Matutina, which he claimed was as close to the original order as
could be found in the early 1930s (when he was initiated). Regardie
wrote many respected and acclaimed books about magic and the Golden
Dawn Order, including The Golden Dawn, The Tree Of Life,
Middle Pillar, and A Garden of Pomegranates.
Rohmer, novelist, creator of the Fu Manchu character
Rosher (1885–1974), British cinematographer
Colman Smith (1878–1951), British-American artist and
co-creator of the Rider-Waite
Sharp (1855–1905), poet and author; alias Fiona MacLeod
(1847–1912), Irish writer best-known today for his 1897 horror
Todhunter (1839–1916), Aktis Heliou Irish poet and
playwright who wrote seven volumes of poetry, and several plays
Tweedale (1862–1936), author.
Underhill (1875–1941), British Christian mystic, author of
Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual
Williams (1886–1945), British poet, novelist, theologian,
and literary critic
A. E. Waite
(1857–1942), British-American author, Freemason
and co-creator of the Rider-Waite
Yeats (1865–1939), Irish poet, dramatist, and writer.
Golden Dawn orders
While no temples in the original chartered lineage of the Golden Dawn
survived past the 1970s,
several organizations have since revived its teachings and rituals.
Among these, the following are notable:
Phillip (2000) Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in
American History, pg. 74. "Also in the 1880s, the tradition
of ritual magic was revived in London by a group of Masonic adepts,
who formed the Order of the Golden Dawn, which would prove an
incalculable influence on the whole subsequent history of
occultism." USA: Oxford University Press.
Richard (1999) Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner
Traditions, ppg 102-103. "Founded in 1888, the Golden Dawn
lasted a mere twelve years before it was shattered by personal
conflicts. At its height it probably had no more than a hundred
members. Yet its influence on magic and esoteric thought in the
English-speaking world would be hard to overestimate." USA:
Dawn researcher R. A. Gilbert has found evidence which suggests that
Westcott was instrumental in developing the Order's rituals from the
Cipher Manuscripts. See Gilbert's article, From Cipher to Enigma:
The Role of William Wynn Westcott in the Creation of the Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn, from Carroll Runyon's book Secrets
of the Golden Dawn Cypher Manuscripts.
Kathleen (1976) . Liam Miller, ed. Yeats, the Tarot and
the Golden Dawn. New Yeats Papers II (second ed.).
Dublin: Dolmen Press. p. 6.
J. Gordon, editor, Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology,
v. 2 p. 1327, Gale Group, 2001 ISBN
"The Golden Dawn ceased to exist by that name after October,
1901, replaced by Mathers' Alpha et Omega and the London group’s
Order of the Morgan Rothe. No longer associated with the SRIA after
1902, Mathers continued to oversee a few temples until his death,
when his wife, Moina, assumed supervision." Samuel Liddel
MacGregor Mathers biography, Grand
Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, February 26, 2001
Picknett, Lynn (2004).
The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of
Christ. Simon and Schuster. p. 201. ISBN 0-7432-7325-7.
Fra. A.o.C. (2002). A
Short Treatise on the History, Culture and Practices of The Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
Armstrong, Allan & R. A.
Gilbert, eds. (1997). Golden Dawn: The Proceedings of the Golden
Dawn Conference, London - 1997. Hermetic Research Trust.
Chic and Tabatha
Cicero (1991). The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot. St.
Paul, MN: Llewellyn
Ithell (1975). Sword of Wisdom: Macgregor Mathers and the
Golden Dawn. Neville Spearman. ISBN
Mary K. (1994). Women of the Golden Dawn. Park Street.
Greer, Mary K. & Darcy Kuntz
(1999) The Chronology of the Golden Dawn. Holmes Publishing
Gilbert, Robert A. (1983). The
Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians. The Aquarian Press. ISBN
Gilbert, Robert A. (1986). The
Golden Dawn Companion. Weiser
Gilbert, Robert A. Golden Dawn
Scrapbook - The Rise and Fall of a Magical Order. Weiser
Books (1998) ISBN
Ellic (1978). The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary
History of a Magical Order 1887-1923. Samuel
Jenkins, Phillip (2000) Mystics
and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History.
University Press. ISBN
Francis (1971). The Rites of Modern Occult Magic. New
Company. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-158-933
King, Francis (1989). Modern
Ritual Magic: The Rise of Western Occultism. ISBN
King, Francis, ed. (1997). Ritual
Magic of the Golden Dawn: Works by S. L. MacGregor Mathers and
Israel (1982). The Golden Dawn. Llewellyn Publications.
Israel Regardie|Regardie, Israel,
et al., eds. (1989). The Golden Dawn: A Complete Course in
Practical Ceremonial Magic. Llewellyn. ISBN
Regardie, Israel (1993). What
You Should Know About the Golden Dawn (6th ed.). ISBN
Runyon, Carroll (1997). Secrets
of the Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts. C.H.S. ISBN
Richard (1999). Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner
Gerald (1990). Crowley's Apprentice: The Life and Ideas of
Israel Regardie. Weiser Books. ISBN
James (2005). The Mystery Traditions: Secret Symbols and
Sacred Art. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. ISBN