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THE GREAT BEAST 666 - The Hermtic Order of the Golden Dawn

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The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.)


In 1888, three acquaintances, all Kabbalists, Freemasons, and Rosicrucians founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.), with the intention of filling the gap left by the Theosophical Society, an organisation which had recently shifted to an Eastern orientation under the direction of Madame Blavatsky.  The founders wanted the Order to be the guardian of the Western Esoteric Tradition, keeping its knowledge intact, while at the same time preparing and teaching the mysteries to those individuals who wished to learn.

The primary creator of the G.D., the man whose brainchild it actually was, was Dr William Wynn Westcott (1848 – 1925), a physician and London coroner interested in occultism.  Westcott was a Master Mason and the Secretary General of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).  His associates were Dr William Robert Woodman (1828 – 1891) and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854 – 1918).  A different account of the foundation of the Order tells us it was initially founded by Westcott and Woodman, with Mathers being asked to join them later.

Dr Woodman was a retired physician, and also a member of the SRIA.  He had an excellent understanding of Kabbalah, and probably played a leading role in developing the Kabbalistic studies of the Order.  But the real magician of the G.D. was without doubt Mathers.  Of the three founding members, he was the one responsible for turning the G.D. into a truly magical, initiatory Order.

To understand how the G.D. came into existence, some reference to the Cipher Manuscript, the document upon which the Rituals and Knowledge Lectures of the Order are based, is essential.  One story tells us that sometime during the 1870s or 1880s, the Cipher Manuscript was discovered on a bookstall by Dr Woodman, but another, the one most favoured, is that in 1887 Westcott was given some sixty pages of a manuscript, written in cipher, by a Reverend A.F.A. Woodford, an elderly Mason who, it was claimed, got the manuscript from ‘a dealer in curios’.  The manuscript, which certainly appeared to be old, was deciphered by Westcott using the cipher found in Abbot Johann Trithemius’ book Polygraphiae.  It turned out to be a series of five ritual outlines of an occult Order, which Westcott expanded into full working grade rituals from Neophyte (0°=0°) through to Philosophus (4°=7°).  In addition to the five rituals, the manuscript contained details of the true attribution of the Tarot trumps, something which had been sought for centuries and which clarified many inconsistencies.  Upon completion of this work, Westcott asked Mathers and Woodman to join him as chiefs of his new Order.

Yet another tale relating to the Cipher Manuscript is that it proved beyond the combined powers of the two eminent doctors to decipher, although it is reputed that Florence Farr (1860-1917), also known as Mrs Emery, said that a child could have done it.  They called on the assistance of Mathers, not only a scholar, but a Mason and magician of considerable distinction who successfully 'deciphered’ the manuscript, after which he was invited to join the Order.

The Origin of the Cipher Manuscript

Whatever the truth relating to its discovery and translation, the debate continues as to the origin of the Cipher Manuscript.  Some scholars are of the opinion that Westcott created it, while others consider it was either written by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803 – 1873), the author of an occult novel called Zanoni, A Strange Story, or else by Frederick Hockley (1809 – 1885), a famous Rosicrucian seer and transcriber of occult manuscripts.  Several other theories have been proposed as possible sources.  These include a Masonic Lodge in Frankfurt called the Loge zur aufgehenden Morgenrothe, and a Kabbalistic College in London headed by an influential Kabbalist by the name of Johann Friedrich Falke (1823 – 1876).  Speculation links both of these groups to the mysterious Hermanoubis Temple, but there is no evidence to substantiate these theories.

The most widely accepted belief is that it was written by Kenneth Mackenzie (1833 – 1886), the author of The Royal Masonic Encyclopedia and a leading member of the SRIA.  Mackenzie had known Eliphas Lévi (1810 – 1875), and was a friend of Frederick Holland, another high-grade Mason.  A leading G.D. historian, R.A. Gilbert, suspects that Holland founded the Hermanoubis Temple, a Golden Dawn prototype, in 1883.  This group was known as the Society of Eight.  Mackenzie wrote the ritual outlines for Holland's Order in the Cipher Manuscript, but the group never became fully established and Westcott acquired the papers after Mackenzie’s death.

The Cipher Manuscript - The Original Folios

Copies of each of the original folios can be viewed below as a slide show.  Please wait a few seconds between each display.

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Giving Credulity to the Order

Westcott, having a strong Masonic background, was certainly familiar with the notion of organisation through hierarchy, and because Masonic lodges required a legitimate charter from the Grand Lodge to function, he undoubtedly felt the need to provide evidence that the G.D. had some provenance, and that it was not something created out of thin air.  In other words, he needed ‘proof’ that the G.D. had some legitimate hierarchical succession from a distant authority.  Since no such authority existed, Westcott fabricated it to ensure he could attract other Freemasons and genuine occultists to the new Order.

As a consequence, an additional paper, also written in cipher, was inserted into the manuscript by 'someone' – this someone being more than likely Westcott himself.  This additional paper was in the form of a letter containing the credentials and address of a woman in Germany called Fräulein Anna Sprengel (Soror Sapiens Dominabitur Astris (SDA)).  According to Westcott, he wrote to Fräulein Sprengel who informed him she was an Adept of an occult Order known as Die Goldene Dammerung, or the Golden Dawn.  Through a 'series of letters' she ‘authorised’ Westcott to establish a temple in England and gave him permission to sign her name on any document deemed necessary.  In the spring of 1888, Westcott produced a Charter of Warrant for the Isis-Urania Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in London.

While it is generally agreed that the Cipher Manuscript was genuine, it is almost certain that Westcott concocted the story about Anna Sprengel and her letters.  By making her a high-ranking official in an obscure German Order, Westcott gave her not only authority and credulity, but above all, made her unreachable.  Once the mysterious Soror SDA had served her purpose, she conveniently ‘died’ and thus could no longer be contacted.

Progression of the Order

By the end of 1888, the Isis-Urania Temple was well established and had thirty-two members, nine women and twenty-three men.  In that same year, two more temples were founded, the Osiris Temple in Weston-Super-Mare, which remained active until 1895, and the Horus Temple in Bradford, active until 1900.  The Amen-Ra Temple, in Edinburgh, came into being in 1893.

During its formative years from 1888 to 1891, the G.D. was primarily a teaching order performing the initiation ceremonies of its Outer Order, its members simply learning the basics of Kabbalah, Astrology, alchemical symbolism, Geomancy, and Tarot.  No magic was practised in these lower grades with the exception of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  By late 1891, the Isis-Urania Temple had in excess of eighty initiates, while other temples probably had a couple of dozen.

Dr Woodman died in 1891, following which Mathers allegedly ‘forced’ Dr Westcott's retirement from active leadership of the Order by planting several occult manuscripts belonging to the Order inside a London cab in a case showing Westcott's address.  A coroner who was an active member of a secret occult society would certainly not have met with approval!  Around the same time, Mathers finalised a ritual for the 5°=6° (the Adeptus Minor grade), the first grade of the Second or Inner Order of the Ordo Roseae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.), or the Order of the Rose of Ruby and the Cross of Gold.  With the creation of a functional Second Order, Mathers had successfully accomplished a restructuring of the Order and became its primary Chief.

The 5°=6° ritual was based upon the legend behind Christian Rosenkreuz, the supposed 'founder' of the Rosicrucian Order.  About 120 years after his 'death', some members of that Order came across his hidden tomb, a seven-sided room inscribed with elaborate symbolism, each wall being eight feet high by five feet wide.  In the centre of the room a circular altar stood over a sarcophagus in which lay their founder's perfectly preserved body.

Mathers and his wife Moina created the Vault of the Adepti, a highly-detailed full-sized version of Rosenkreuz’s tomb, which displayed the strong Rosicrucian element woven into the G.D.’s Inner Order.  Moina Mathers was not only an accomplished artist, gifted clairvoyant, and her husband's personal scryer, but a long-time friend of Annie Horniman (1860 – 1937) who was subsidising Mathers.  Moina's visionary experiences may well have influenced her husband’s writing of the Second Order rituals and grade work.  She also painted most of the wall decorations, god-forms, and temple furnishings for the Isis-Urania Temple.

Although an examination was of primary importance, admission to the Second Order could only be gained by invitation.  The work of the Second Order was much more extensive than that of the First.  Whereas the latter was basically theoretical, the former put that theory into practice, with members being required to fashion and consecrate several magical implements.  Mathers also created a curriculum and a series of eight examinations which eventually led to the sub-grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor.  Few members ever had the time or will to complete the necessary grade work and all of the eight examinations, but those who did could rightly profess to have obtained a complete education in most facets of Western Hermetic Magick.

In the spring of 1892, the Mathers moved to Paris on a permanent basis and founded the Ahathoor Temple, leaving Florence Farr (an actress, a feminist and the lover of both George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats) as the Head of the Order in England.  The Ahathoor Temple continued to thrive until 1896, during which time three American temples were chartered, in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Mathers wanted sole command of the G.D., but he was not trusted by other influential members.  He arranged a meeting with three of its Adepts in the Bois de Boulogne, where he was confirmed in the supreme and sole authority, i.e. as the Visible Head of the Order.  Those adepts had to sign a pledge of personal obedience to Mathers as a pre-condition to their own advancement in the Order.  However, their dissatisfaction continued when that promised advancement did not happen and they began to suspect that Mathers had no additional knowledge to impart.

In the meantime, Mathers had found the manuscript of Abramelin the Mage in the library of the Arsenal in Paris and had begun to work on its translation.  There was very little practical way of getting around Paris in those days, so because Mathers was living quite some distance from the Arsenal in a suburb known as Auteuil, he used to travel by bicycle.  Unfortunately, he had so many accidents that he felt compelled to go on foot.  Aleister Crowley tells us, "There is always occult opposition to the publication of important documents.”  Misfortunes of every kind followed him wherever he went.  Despite being an expert magician and using the Greater Key of Solomon to great effect, he had not foreseen that Abramelin was an altogether more advanced proposition.  It was ‘like a man, accustomed to handling gunpowder, suddenly being supplied with dynamite without being aware of the difference'.  Despite these mishaps and setbacks, he persisted and eventually published the translated manuscript.

Aleister Crowley joined the G.D. in November 1898 and took his membership seriously, advancing quickly through its lower grades (its rituals have been printed in The Equinox, Vol. I, Nos. II and III).  He took the magical motto Perdurabo (Latin for 'I Will Endure') and was taught the secret signs, handshake and steps of the Order.  He was entrusted with some ‘priceless secrets’ including the Sacred Alphabet, the names of the planets with their attribution to the days of the week, and details of the ten Sephiroth of the Kabbalah.  Although he was already well versed in this and much more through his own reading and research, he knew it was vitally important to drill any aspirant in the essential groundwork.  He achieved the grade of Zelator in December, and that of Practicus in February, but could not advance to the next grade of Philosophus for another three months, so did not attain that until May.  A Philosophus cannot proceed to the Second Order in under seven months of achieving that grade, and even after that period of time must be specially invited.

The Eventual Breakup of the Order

Troubles within the G.D. began in 1895 when Mathers’ relationship with his financier, Annie Horniman, started to deteriorate.  She was the daughter of an affluent tea importer and became a close friend of Moina Mathers when the two attended art school together.  After their move to Paris, Horniman continued to support the Mathers financially with a generous subsidy, but in return she expected him to dedicate all of his time to promoting the Order.  Although he was a very talented magician, Mathers was also an eccentric (some go so far as to say he was mad), as well as being a demanding and autocratic Chief.  In early 1896, a disagreement between Horniman and Mathers over the matter of his taking time away from his responsibilities resulted in Mathers accusing her of trying to undermine his authority.  She in turn withdrew her much needed financial support.

In the meantime, the Second Order Adepts in London were becoming more and more restless.  This required swift action from Mathers.  In the autumn of 1896, he sent each one a copy of a manifesto demanding complete obedience to him on everything related to the First and Second Orders, to which everyone other than Horniman submitted.  This resulted in her immediate expulsion from the Order by Mathers, an act which shocked many of the members and only served to fuel their discontent.

A major crisis occurred in February 1900.  Mathers was still running the Order from Paris but had become out of touch with the English temples.  Florence Farr had grown tired of his personal quirks and domineering behaviour.  In a letter to Mathers, she suggested the Order should be dissolved.  He suspected this was part of a plot to bring back Westcott to replace him as Head of the Order.  Consequently, Mathers revealed to her the fact that the letters from Fräulein Sprengel had been forged by Westcott; this revelation shook the London temple to its foundations. What surprised them even more was, despite this exposure, Westcott declined to provide any explanation or even try to defend himself against the accusations.

To make matters even worse, Crowley had now completed the work necessary to advance to the Second Order in the grade of Adeptus Minor thanks to the help he had received from a Second Order Adept by the name of Allan Bennett.  Bennett was a brilliant magician and considered to be second only to Mathers.  The London controllers of the Order, Florence Farr and William Butler Yeats in particular (who disliked the 'demonic upstart' intensely – the feelings were mutual), refused to advance him.  Crowley, although annoyed, was not overly concerned.  He went immediately to Paris where Mathers, now in desperate need of a staunch ally in the G.D., was immediately entered into the highest level of the second rank, "Adeptus Exemptus."  The London chapter requested evidence and reasoning behind Crowley's promotion; Mathers declined and dismissed the chapter as an official part of the Golden Dawn.  In response, the London chapter renounced Mathers as their leader.  This act only further outraged the fractious London members.

The Second Order Adepts in London formed a committee to investigate the allegations of the fraudulent founding of the Order  In April 1900, Mathers annulled the committee, and sent Crowley to London as his emissary to take possession of the Second Order’s private rooms and implements.  Crowley dutifully went with Elaine Simpson (Soror Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis ), who had also sided with Mathers, and attempted to obtain possession of the Order's property on behalf of Mathers.  The result of this was a ‘battle’ at the door of the London temple at 36 Blythe Road.  Crowley, who had bought a property in Scotland and who was now masquerading as the Laird of Boleskine, appeared at the door in mask, sword and full Highland dress.  Yeats, who had got wind of this, confronted him at the door and called the police to sort matters out.  Crowley wanted the police to evict the London lodge while Yeats wanted Crowley arrested as an interloper.  The upshot was that Crowley was expelled from the Isis-Urania Temple of the Golden Dawn.

In the ensuing confusion, Yeats assumed control and became Imperator of the Isis-Urania Temple.  The committee attempted to restructure the Order along more democratic lines, the result being even greater confusion.  In the meantime, Annie Horniman had been reinstated into the Order, but to her dismay she discovered many of the rituals had been tampered with, and the examination system had been virtually abandoned.  What was even worse, in her opinion, was when she discovered some of the Adepts, including Florence Farr, had formed a separate 'secret group' without the approval of Yeats and the other Adepts.  This group, called the ‘Sphere’, was specialising in astral visualisation, astral travelling and communications with ‘Masters’.  Horniman began to argue with nearly everyone in the Order.  Although Yeats tried to maintain peace, he failed and resigned from office in February 1901.  You can read Crowley's version of the events leading to the breakup of the Order by clicking HERE.  To download his diary entries covering this period click HERE.

Another significant blow to the Order now appeared on the horizon.  This problem went by the name of Madame Horos.  Mr and Mrs Horos were two con-artists who had somehow managed to convince Mathers that ‘Madame’ was actually the real Anna Sprengel (this was despite the fact that he had already informed the London members that the foundation of the Order was fraudulent).  Although fooled for a while, as soon as he became suspicious the dubious couple stole some copies of the G.D.’s rituals and fled to London where they set up their own Order, The Order of Theocratic Unity which, unbeknown to its members, featured fraud, extortion, and sex.  Mr Horos was eventually arrested for rape.  When charged by the authorities, the Horoses claimed to be the leaders of the G.D.  The result was that many of the most arcane secrets of the Order were made public, the initiation rituals being printed in the London newspapers.  The Order was scandalised by the whole episode and began to disintegrate.

Florence Farr resigned from the Order, which changed its name to the Hermetic Society of the Morgenrothe.  A small group of initiates gave their allegiance to Mathers.  What remained of the original Isis-Urania Temple was taken over by Arthur Edward Waite (1857 - 1942), a mystic, occultist, and prolific writer (of poor quality according to Crowley) who had studied several branches of esoteric wisdom.  Many of the remaining members joined Waite’s group.  However, Waite did not care for magic, mysticism being more to his taste, so in his new Order, The Independent and Rectified Rite, he reduced the emphasis on Ritual Magic in favour of his preferred mystical path.  The more magically inclined members of the original Order, including Dr Robert William Felkin (1858-1922) and John William Brodie-Innes (1848 – 1923), formed the Stella-Matutina, Felkin’s main temple in London being known as Amoun.  Brodie-Innes continued to operate the Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh, eventually reaching the conclusion that the revolt was unjustified.  By 1908, he and Mathers were in accord.

Mathers subsequently renamed the Ahathoor branch of the G.D. whose members remained loyal to his leadership to ‘Alpha et Omega’ (A.O.).  According to differing sources it was sometime between 1901 and 1913 when Mathers changed the name.  In addition to the Paris temple, Mathers' supporters established three A.O. temples in London and one in Edinburgh.  There was also a hybrid group known as the Cromlech Temple, a joint effort created by the Edinburgh A.O. Temple and some Anglican clergymen.  The Bradford and Weston-super-Mare temples had remained loyal to Mathers, but their numbers were insignificant.  Edward Berridge (c.1843-1923) was appointed as his representative, and he had begun to work the ceremonies and rites of the G.D. in West London by 1903.  Historical evidence shows there were twenty-three members of a flourishing Second Order under Berridge-Mathers by 1913.

Some individuals who were initiated into the A.O. Temples were to go on to establish their own magical orders.  Dion Fortune, a student of psychology, left in 1922 to form the Fraternity of the Inner Light.  Paul Foster Case would later create his own organisation, the Builders of the Adytum.

Meanwhile, Dr Felkin established the Smaragdum Thalasses Temple of the Stella-Matutina in New Zealand in 1912.  The New Zealand Order became known by the Maori name of Whare Ra or ‘The House of the Sun’.  Back in England, Felkin established three more temples of the Stella-Matutina in 1916, the Hermes Lodge in Bristol, the Merlin Lodge, and the Secret College in London.  The primary focus of Felkin’s group was on astral travelling.  Unfortunately, Felkin’s abilities as the leader of a magical Order were somewhat lacking compared with Mathers; he went searching all over Europe for the Secret Chiefs of the Order in physical form.

In the 1930s, Israel Regardie (1907 – 1985) arrived upon the scene.  Regardie, who had been Aleister Crowley’s secretary between 1928 and 1930, had written a book on magic called The Tree of Life in 1932, and had earlier published a study of the Kabbalah, A Garden of Pomegranates.  These books caused quite a stir in the temples of both the Stella-Matutina and the A.O.  Regardie joined the Hermes Temple of the Stella-Matutina in 1933 and became an Adept in 1934.

Unfortunately, the Stella-Matutina was dying a slow death.  The leaders of the group were claiming to hold highly exalted grades with little understanding of the basic material.  Many of the Knowledge Lectures had been changed or dropped altogether.  In 1937, Regardie made a decision to publish the Order's lectures and rituals in his book, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, thus ensuring the teachings would not be lost forever.  The Adepts of both the Stella-Matutina and the A.O. were unable to deal with this very different approach to secrecy now that most of their arcane teachings were in the public domain.  In the following years, most temples of the A.O. and the Stella-Matutina (with the exception of an offshoot temple in New Zealand) ceased all group work.

N.B.  In 1990, a new organisation by the name of The Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn was formed.  Click HERE for further details.

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The History Lecture - Golden Dawn by V.H. Frater Sapere Aude (Dr William Wynn Westcott)

"The Order of the G.D. in the Outer is a Hermetic Society whose members are taught the principles of Occult Science and the Magic of Hermes.  During the early part of the second half of the 19th century, several adepti and chiefs of this order in France and England died, and their deaths caused a temporarily dormant condition of Temple work.  Prominent among these were Eliphas Lévi, Ragon, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, author of the Masonic Encyclopedia and Frederick Hockley, possessed of crystal vision whose M.S.S. we highly esteemed.  These and other adepti received their knowledge and power from predecessors of greater imminence and have handed down to us this doctrine and system of Theosophy and Hermetic Science of the Higher Alchemy from a series of practical investigations whose origin is traced to the Fratres Rosae Crucis of Germany, which association was founded by Christian Rosenkreuz about 1398.

He and the theologian, Valentine Andrea, have left us, in the works published about 1614, an account of the exoteric arrangements of the Rosicrucian Society.  It seems likely it was Andrea who published in 1614 the Fama Fraternitatis, or Theory of the Society, which must have been derived from the old records of the pupils of Christian Rosenkreuz.  But even this arrival of mysticism was a new development of the older wisdom of the Qabalistic Rabbis and of that very ancient secret knowledge of the magic of the Egyptians into which Moses had been initiated.  Through the Qabalah, indeed, Europe became possessed of the ancient Wisdom more than from any one other source, for the Hebrews were taught at one time by the Egyptians and later by the Chaldees of Babylon.

It is a curious fact that the classic nations, the Greeks and Romans, have handed down to us but slight glimpses of the Ancient Magic, and this is more notable because Greece succeeded to the mastership of Egypt, and Rome to the Empire of both the Greeks and Jews.  Greece did indeed succeed to a share in the mysteries of the Egyptians for the Eleusinian Mysteries were copies of the ancient ceremonies of Isis, Osiris and Serapis; but they lacked true magic.  And further, the classic writings contain but faint glimpses of even the Eleusinian Mysteries, and these disclose the fact that the pupils were partly ignorant of the true mysteries, a notable example of which is seen in the use of the words Konx Om Pax, of which they knew not the meaning, the words being the Greek imitation or translation of really ancient Egyptian words, whose meanings has been kept secret for centuries.  Hence the 0=0 Grade is found to possess Egyptian characteristics and symbolism and the Higher Grades will reveal the source of much of the culture and illustrate the language of Eliphas Lévi, through whose Adeptship the study of occultism has been popularised.

The First Order is a group of four grades of which Neophytes are admissible when approved by the G.D. Chiefs after showing themselves possessed of sufficient aptitude and knowledge.  Beyond the above, there are three grades of Adeptship forming the Second Order.  These have the power of selecting Candidates, initiating students into the lower grades and their Chiefs have, in addition, the power of issuing warrants of Temples such as that of Isis-Urania.  But the highest of all in this ancient scheme are the Great Rulers of the whole system who severally sustain and govern the Third Order, which includes three Magic Titles of Honor and Supremacy.  These represent the Supernal Triad of the Sephiroth and are shrouded and unapproachable to the profane and to all others but the Chiefs of the Adepts.  In case of a vacancy in this Order, the Chief most learned Adept obtains by decree the well-earned award.  The scheme of the G.D. then is formed upon the type of the Decad of the Sephiroth, the ten Emanations of Deity as figured in the Qabalah whose professors were illuminated by the higher magic of the ancient world.  The grades of the First Order will be found to be Hebrew in design and tendency; and inasmuch as the influx of time brought on the revelation of the Christos, the Tiphareth, the Beauty of Microprosopus, Christian design is reflected in the higher degrees.

The Neophyte Grade and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Grades, which this present Isis-Urania Temple is authorized to confer after due examination and approval, possess rituals and secrets which have been received from the G.D. Chief Adepts and these are placed in our hands to use in the tuition of pupils in the ancient methods of this Order.  This Temple (Isis-Urania) was consecrated as a successor to Hermanoubis No. 2 which had ceased to exist owing to the death of all its Chiefs.

The Temple No. 1 of Licht, Liebe, Libra is a group of Continental mystics who have not been in the habit of performing ceremonies in open lodge, but have conferred the grades chiefly in privacy and in the presence of two or three members, so there is no accurate record of name and rank of all these members.  Soon after the formation of Temple No. 3, permission was granted for the consecration of Osiris Temple No. 4 at Weston-Super-Mare under rule of V.H. Frater "Crux dat Salubrem" and the West of England has been assigned to him as a province.  Almost at the same time, the Horus Temple No. 5 under the rule of V.H. Frater "Vote Vita Mea" was also consecrated at Bradford in Yorkshire.  These three Temples have members also in the United States, Hindustan, Palestine, Denmark, etc.

The name of the Order in various languages is:

  • In Hebrew: Morning Light Shining Society (Chabrath (or Chaorah) Zoreh Aour Bakker) which means The Society of the Shining Light of Dawn.
  • In Latin: Aurora.
  • In German: Die Goldene Demmerung.
  • In French: L'Aube d'OrÆ.

Reference may now be made to the Society which was reconstructed by Robert Wentworth Little, student of the mysteries.  This Society, which has branches in England, Scotland and the United States, is allied with the G.D. It perpetuated one form of Rosicrucian initiation which was conferred 100 years ago in England and which was mentioned by Godfrey Higgins in his work The Anacalypsis, or an Attempt to Withdraw the Veil of the Saitic Isis.  Fratre Little was a student of the school of Lévi and also an eminent Freemason, and the Rosicrucian Society as revised by him was made by intention and permission essentially masonic, thus severing all connection with those Adepts who have not been Craftsmen, as Basil Valentine, Artephus, Nicolas Flamel, Jacob Behmen and Robert Fludd.  The Rosicrucian Society in the same manner fails to recognize any worth for occult research in women.  This is also an innovation or the scheme of the Ancient Mysteries in many of which, notably those of Isis priestesses and virgin prophetesses, were prominent ministers.

Note specifically, that there are several instances in the ancient M.S. of our Order, which are written in cypher, where reference is made to the fratres and sorores, the words "her or him" occur showing that in olden time, as at the present day, women rose to high rank and attainment in the secret knowledge of the Order.  Mention may be suitably made to Pernelle, the wife and fellow-worker of Nicolas Flamel, of Martine Berthereau, companion of Baron Jean de Chatelet who died about 1645 and of the widow lady afterwards symbolized by him as Sophia (Heavenly Wisdom), fellow student and inspirer of John Georg Gichtel who died about 1700.  The occultists of today cannot need to be reminded of the great Hermetists and Theosophists of recent times: of D. Anna Kingsford, who was indeed illuminated by the Sun of Light; of Madame Blavatsky, leader of the T.S. No occult student, however wide apart his own favoured path of wisdom, could fail to recognize in her a master mind in a woman's frame.

I cannot fail to express the lament which followed the passing of Dr William Robert Woodman, for many years known as the supreme Magus of the Society Ros. in Anglia which is exoteric in its outer grades but whose concerns are regulated by an inner circle of Adepti who still hold the secrets of the R.:. C.:. and its masonic society.

The eastern school of Theosophy and Occultism and our own Hermetic Society of the G.D. are fraternities of students whose predecessors must have come from the same stock of magi as the scientific priests of a remote antiquity.  The two Societies, different in modes of teaching and in language, are allied by mutual understanding and respect, and their aim is similar.  Be assured that the Order of the G.D. can show the way to much secret knowledge and spiritual progress and lead true and patient students who can Will, Dare, Learn and Be Silent to the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom, and Perfect Happiness."

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Structure & Grades Within the Order

First Order

  • Neophyte 0°=0°
  • Zelator 1°=10°
  • Theoricus 2°=9°
  • Practicus 3°=8°
  • Philosophus 4°=7°

Second Order

  • Intermediate — Portal Grade
  • Adeptus Minor 5°=6°
  • Adeptus Major 6°=5°
  • Adeptus Exemptus 7°=4°

Third Order

  • Magister Templi 8°=3°
  • Magus 9°=2°
  • Ipsissimus 10°=1°
The paired numbers attached to the grades relate to positions on the Tree of Life, the Neophyte Grade of 0°=0° indicating no position on the Tree.  For the others, the first numeral is the number of steps up from the bottom (Malkuth), while the second denotes the number of steps down from the top (Kether).

The First Order Grades were related to the four Classical Elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, respectively.  An aspirant to each 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 the initiation ritual for admittance to the Second Order.  The circle of existing Adepts from the Second Order had to consent to allow an aspirant to join the Second Order.

The Second Order was not, properly, part of the Golden Dawn, but a separate Order in its own right, and known as the R.R. et A.C.  This Second Order directed the teachings of the First Order, and was the governing force behind that Order.

After passing the Portal, the aspirant was instructed in the techniques of practical magick.  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.

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Major Events in Chronological Order

The major events during the history of the original Golden Dawn have been reproduced below.  Should you notice any errors or omissions, please contact us.

After supposedly 'decoding' the Cipher Manuscript, Dr Westcott asked Mathers and Dr Woodman to form a triumvirate (from Latin, 'of three men', a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir) to assist him to set up the new Order.
Temple No 1, Licht, Liebe, Leben (Nuremburg) - is spurious, and Temple 2, Hermanoubis (London) was supposedly chartered but never active.  Isis-Urania, Temple No 3 established.  Drs Westcott and Woodman, and Mathers became the Three Chiefs; Mina Bergson (Moina Mathers) became its 1st initiate.  Osiris Temple No 4 chartered in Weston-Super-Mare; all members are Masons.  Horus Temple No 5 chartered in Bradford.
Annie Horniman, William Butler Yeats, Florence Farr, J.W. Brodie-Innes and Percy Bullock join the G.D.
The Second Order, known as Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis, (RR et AC) was established; Annie Horniman was the first initiate.  Dr Woodman died - nobody appointed to take his place.  Arthur Edward Waite and Mrs Helen Rand join the G.D.
Mathers moved to Paris on a permanent basis.  Mrs Pamela Carden (later Mrs Pamela Bullock) and Henry Pullen-Burry join the G.D.
Amen-Ra Temple No 6 chartered in Edinburgh; members included J.W. Brodie-Innes and Dr Robert Felkin.  Westcott resigned as Praemonstrator - succeeded by Florence Farr.  Annie Horniman became sub-Praemonstrator.  Mrs Brodie-Innes joins the G.D.
Ahathoor Temple No 7 established in Paris by Mathers.  The French occultist Papus (Dr Gerard Encausse) was given an honorary initiation into the temple; he later resigned to head the Martinist Order, a Rosicrucian Lodge in France.  Charles Henry Allan Bennett, Charles Rosher, Dr Robert W. Felkin and Frederick Leigh Gardner join the G.D.
Several temples established in America, No 8 in Boston, No 9 in Philadelphia, and the Thoth-Hermes, No 10 in Chicago, of which Paul Foster Case was a member.  George Cecil Jones joined the G.D.
Florence Farr set up the Sphere Group, a secret group of scryers, within the Golden Dawn.  Annie Horniman and Mathers fell out (Horniman was his financier).  Mathers issued a manifesto demanding written submission to his authority from members of the Second Order.  Annie Horniman is expelled from the Golden Dawn by Mathers.  M. Eugene Jacob (Ely Star) and Mme Jenny Jacob join Mathers' Ahathoor Temple.
Dr Westcott resigned from office in both the Golden Dawn and RR et AC after his association with the Order was made public.  Florence Farr took over as head of the Order in Anglia.  Elaine Simpson joined the G.D.
Aleister Crowley joins the G.D.  Camille Videgrain (Sursum Corda - S.C.) joins Ahathoor in Paris.
This year was basically the 'beginning of the end' for the original Order.  Aleister Crowley initiated into the Second Order by Mathers in Paris after the London Adepts refused to initiate him; the London Adepts still refused to recognise Crowley’s initiation.  Florence Farr resigned after Mathers accused her of attempting to bring back Westcott as head of the Order.  Mathers introduced to Madame Horos as 'Anna Sprengel' at Ahathoor.  Mathers refused to accept Farr’s resignation and accused Dr Westcott of forging the Anna Sprengel letters.  The Second Order committee members in London investigated charges of fraud and expelled S.L. MacGregor and Moina Mathers from the Order, resulting in Annie Horniman's reinstatement.  Mathers annulled the Second Order committee and sent Aleister Crowley to take control of RR et AC’s property in London; he failed to do this.  Isis Temple No 11 (also called Alpha et Omega 1) created by Dr Berridge in London and remained loyal to Mathers.
Internal battles over Florence Farr’s Sphere Group.  The 'Horos trials' brought much unwanted publicity to the Order.
Florence Farr resigned from the G.D., which changed its name to the Hermetic Society of the Morgenrothe.  Horus Temple in Bradford gradually pulled away, eventually turning to SRIA ideals, and accepted only Master Masons.
J.W. Brodie-Innes, Dr Felkin, and the more magically-inclined members formed the Stella Matutina, the Mother temple being called Amoun.  A.E. Waite, M. Worsley Blackden, W.A. Ayton, and the more mystically-inclined members took over the remnants of Isis-Urania No 3.  Waite formed the Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn (and later The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross in 1916).  Temples loyal to Mathers took on the name Alpha et Omega.
Alpha et Omega No 2 temple was formed in Edinburgh as a 'daughter' temple to Amen-Ra, with Brodie-Innes (after having made peace with Mathers and broken away from Felkin) as its chief.  Meanwhile, Felkin established the 'Smaragdum Thalasses Temple' of the Stella Matutina in Havelock North, New Zealand.  This order became known by the Maori name of 'Whare Ra' or 'The House of the Sun'.
Amen-Ra sired a spin-off hybrid called 'Cromlech Temple' or the Solar Order (a collaboration between Alpha et Omega No 2 and Anglican clergymen).  Brodie-Innes established an Alpha et Omega temple in London as a southern branch of his revived Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh, which functions separately from Moina Mathers’ Alpha et Omega 3.
Felkin established several temples of the Stella Matutina - the Hermes Lodge in Bristol, the Secret College in London (open only to SRIA members), and the Merlin Lodge in London.  He also established another Order, the Guild of St. Raphael (a guild of the Anglican Church).
Moina Mathers returned to London after her husband's death and established Alpha et Omega No 3.  Dion Fortune joined Brodie-Innes’ Alpha et Omega temple in London, before transferring to the Stella-Matutina.
The Amoun Temple of the Stella Matutina in London closed down due to the paranoid behaviour of Mrs Stoddart, its chief.
Moina Mathers expelled Paul Foster Case from the Golden Dawn.  He went on to create his own Order, the Builders of the Adytum (BOTA).  Dion Fortune left the Alpha et Omega Lodge to form the 'Fraternity of the Inner Light', later renamed the 'Society of the Inner Light'.  Spin-off groups from this order included The Guild of the Master Jesus, Helios, the Enochian Temple and the Servants of the Light (W.E. Butler).
William Butler Yeats resigned as the Stella Matutina came closer to complete collapse.
Israel Regardie was initiated into the Hermes Temple of the Stella Matutina in Bristol, shortly after resigning as Aleister Crowley's secretary.
Regardie began to publish the Order’s teachings, the reason being based upon his feelings that the Golden Dawn system was becoming moribund under the auspices of the Stella Matutina.  He chose to break all previous oaths and publish all of the material he had received from the Order.  He was aware that he had no lineage to which he could pass on this information, so while expressing a certain amount of reservation in breaking his oaths, he considered publication of previously secret material would save the tradition from total obliteration for the common good of all.  On this basis, he felt, or at least hoped, that his actions could and would be excused.
Most temples of Alpha et Omega and Stella Matutina became dormant, two exceptions being the Hermes Temple in Bristol (which worked sporadically until 1970) and the Whare Ra temple in New Zealand, which lasted into the late 1970s.

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Some Members of the Golden Dawn, their Magical Mottos & Temples

Magical mottos are the magical nicknames, noms de plume, or pseudonyms (normally in Latin) taken by various individuals in magical organisations, the motto generally being adopted upon initiation into the neophyte grade of the organisation.  These members were known by, and often referred to in many publications by their mottos.  Users of magical mottos typically referred to each other in their capacity as initiates as Frater (men) or Soror (women), Latin for brother and sister respectively, followed by the initials of their magical mottos.

We would genuinely appreciate any help from anyone who can confirm the temples/branches to which the people shown below belonged.  Nine original Golden Dawn temples were founded before the Order broke into factions around 1900; some say there were eleven, although the first two listed are considered to be fictional:

Licht, Liebe, Leben, c1870 Nuremburg: Fraulein Sprengel?
Hermanoubis, 1889 London: Dr Thiesen?
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Isis-Urania, Mar. 20, 1888 London: Westcott, Woodman, Mathers
Osiris, Oct. 8, 1888 Weston-super-Mare: B. Cox
Horus, Oct. 19, 1888 Bradford: T.H. Pattinson
Amen-Ra, Apr. 14, 1893 Edinburgh: J.W. Brodie-Innes
Ahathoor, Dec. 3, 1893 Paris: S.L.M. Mathers
Ihme, c1895 Boston?
Themis, c1895 Philadelphia?
10 Thoth-Hermes, c1895 Chicago: Mrs. Lockwood
11 Isis /Alpha et Omega, 1900 W. London: E.W. Berridge

Surname First Name(s) Magical Motto Temple / Location
Aitken Georgina Sola Cruce Salus
Aitken Andrew P. Judico Lente
Atherton J.L. Semper Fidelis
Ayton Mrs Quam Potero Adjutabo
Ayton William Alexander Virtute Orta Occidunt Rarius
Baker Julian L. Causa Scientiae Isis-Urania : London
Bates Miss Emily Pro Veritate
Bennett Arnold
Bennett Charles Henry Allan Iehi Aour Isis-Urania : London
Berridge C.M. Respiro
Berridge Edward W. Resurgam Alpha-Omega (Isis) : London
Birchall Peter Cephas
Blackden Marcus Worsley Ma Wahana Thesi Isis-Urania : London
Blackwell Miss Anna Essi Quam Videri
Blackwood Algernon Umbram Fugat Veritas
Borthwick Miss Gabrielle Sine Metu
Brettle John W. Luci
Briggs Miss Mary Per Mare Ad Astra
Brodie-Innes John William Sub Spe Amen Ra : Edinburgh / Stella-Matutina : London
Brodie-Innes Mrs Sub Hoc Signo Vinces Stella-Matutina : London
Bullock (orig Carden) Mrs Pamela Shemebar
Bullock Percy W. Levavi Oculos
Burnley Scott Mrs Maria Jane Sub Silentio
Cadbury Jones A. Faire Sans Dire
Carden Mrs Anne Amore
Carden Alexander James Fide
Case Paul Foster Perseverantia Thoth-Hermes : Chicago
Cathcart Mrs Agnes Veritas Vincit
Cattanach Andrew Esto Sol Testis
Childers Miss Quis Seperabit
Clayton Miss Fanny Orare
Colville Mrs Semper
Coleman Frank Audi Et Aude
Coryn Sidney Veritas Praevaleat
Cox Benjamin Crux Dat Salutem Osiris : Weston-super-Mare
Cracknell Maud Tempus Omnia Revelat
Crowley Aleister Perdurabo Isis-Urania : London
Davies Mrs Jane Anna Excelsior
de Steiger Isabelle Alta Pero Isis-Urania : London
Dickson George Fortes Fortuna Juvat
Dickson (son of George) W.E. Carnagie Fortes Fortuna Juvat
Drummond Miss Mary Fideliter
Drummond Mrs Emily In Deo Confido
Edwards B.E.J. Deus Lux Solis
Elliott John Hugh Nobis Est Victoria
Farr Florence (aka Mrs Emery) Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data Isis-Urania : London
Felkin Mrs Mary Per Aspera Ad Astra
Felkin Miss Ethel Quaero Altissima
Felkin Harriett (2nd wife) Quaero Lucem Stella-Matutina : London
Felkin Robert William Finem Respice Stella-Matutina : London / Whare Ra : New Zealand
Firth Oliver Volo Horus : Bradford
Fitzgerald J.C. Deus Meus Deus
Fortune Dion Deo Non Fortuna Alpha et Omega : London
Fullham-Hughes Mrs Reena Silentio
Gardner Frederick Leigh Credo Experto / De Profundis Ad Lucem Isis-Urania : London
Gardner J.K. Valet Anchora Virtus
Gillison Mrs Jean Cogito Ergo Sum
Gonne Miss Maud Per Ignem Ad Lucem Isis-Urania : London
Hamilton Mrs Lina Bowatt Fidelis
Hammond William Pro Rege Et Patria
HaQuaestor Lucis William Pro Rege Et Patria
Harrison F.D. Quanti Est Sapere Horus : Bradford
Haweis Mary Cede Deo
Heazell F.N. Evocatus Paratus
Hill John Ut Prosim
Horniman Miss Annie E.F. Fortiter Et Recte Isis-Urania : London
Hughes Miss C.E. Lux Orta Est
Humphrys W.E.H. Gnothi Seauton
Hunter Mrs Harietta Dorothea Deo Date
Hunter Edward A. Hora Et Semper
Hunter William Sutherland In Cornu Salutem Spero
Jacob M. Eugene Ely Star Ahathoor : Paris
Jacob Mme Jenny Ahathoor : Paris
Johnson F.L. Ora Et Labore
Jones Charles Stansfeld Achad
Jones George Cecil Volo Noscere Isis-Urania : London
Kelly Gerald Eritis Similis Deo
Kennedy Mrs Florence Volo
Kirby W.F. Genetho Phos
Langridge Miss Minnie Constance Che Sara Sara
Lockwood Mrs Thoth-Hermes : Chicago
Machen Arthur Avallaunius
MacKenzie Mrs C. Cryptonyma
MacKenzie Mrs M. Magna Est Veritas
MacRae Mrs Cecilia Macte Virtute / Vincit Qui Se Vincit
Maitinski Mrs Abest Timor
Mathers Samuel Liddell MacGregor S Rioghail Mo Dhream / Deo Duce Comite Ferro Isis-Urania : London / Ahathoor : Paris (Alpha et Omega)
Mathers Mrs Moina Bergson Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum Isis-Urania : London / Ahathoor : Paris (Alpha et Omega)
Meakin Neville Ex Oriente Lux
Minson George Equanimitur
Moffat Kate R. Servio Liberaliter
Morris H.C. Cavendo Tutus
Murray Mrs Grace In Excelsis
Murray Oswald In Utrumque Paratus / Quaestor Lucis
Nesbit (orig Bland) Edith
Nisbet R.B. Ex Animo
O'Connell Miss Theresa Jane Ciall Agus Neart
Paget Mrs Henrietta Dum Spiro Spero
Paget Henry
Pattinson Thomas Henry Vota Vita Mea Horus : Bradford
Peck William Veritas Et Lux Amen Ra : Edinburgh
Pollexfen George (uncle of WB Yeats) Festina Lente Isis-Urania : London
Pullen Burry Mrs Urge Semper Igitur
Pullen Burry Henry Anima Pura Sit
Rand Mrs Helen Vigilate Isis-Urania : London
Reason Will Semper Sperans
Regardie Israel Ad Majorem Adonai Gloriam Stella-Matutina : Bristol
Rosher Charles Aequo Animo
Roy Robert Nil Desperandum
Severs Miss Ada Benedicamus Deo
Sharp (MacLeod) William (Fiona)
Simpson Miss Elaine Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis Isis-Urania : London
Simpson Mrs Alice (mother of Elaine) Perseverantia Et Cura Quies Isis-Urania : London
Smith James Webber Non Sine Numine
Smith Pamela Coleman Quod Tibi Id Allis Isis-Urania : London
Stoddart Christina M. I.F.C. Stella-Matutina (Amoun) : London
Theobald Robert Masters Ecce In Penetralibus
Thiesen Dr Lux E Tenebris Hermanoubis : London (doubtful)
Thomas Robert Palmer Lucem Spero
Todhunter John Aktis Heliou
Tranchell-Hayes Mrs Ex Fide Fortis
Tweedale Violet
Videgrain Camille Sursum Corda Ahathoor : Paris
Waite Arthur Edward Sacramentum Regis Isis-Urania : London
Waters Miss Ada Recta Pete Isis-Urania : London
Webber Colonel Non Sine Numine
Westcott William Wynn Sapere Aude / Non Omnis Moriar / Quod Scis Nescis Isis-Urania : London
Whitty Michael Thoth-Hermes : Chicago
Wilde Constance Qui Patitur Vincit Isis-Urania : London
Williams Charles Nurho Demanhar Leculnosh
Wilson Thomas Sub Rosa
Windram Thomas Semper Paratus
Woodman William Robert Vincit Omnia Veritas / Magna Est Veritas Et Praevalebit Isis-Urania : London
Woodford A.F.A. Sit Lux Et Lux Fuit Isis-Urania : London
Worsley Blackden Marcus Ma Wahanu Thesi
Wright Francis Mens Consia Recte
Yeats William Butler Daemon Est Deus Inversus Isis-Urania : London
Yeats Mrs Georgie Hyde-Lees Nemo

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In Summary

The prime mover of the Golden Dawn was without doubt Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.  He was responsible for the cohesion of the structure of the Order, as well as its rituals and whole system of magic.  Mathers was a flamboyant character (some say 'odd') with a romantic leaning to all things Celtic, even changing his name to incorporate ‘MacGregor’ to claim descendency from the Scottish Clan.  He wore full highland dress, including dirks in his socks, and a sporran.  It was no doubt his confidence and charm that led to the Order’s growing popularity among society at the time.

Despite the eventual break-up of the Golden Dawn, it must be noted that the contribution made to the Western Magical Tradition by its three founding members is outstanding.  Between them they merged Kabbalah, alchemy, Tarot, astrology, divination, numerology, Masonic symbolism and Ritual Magic into one coherent system which continues to influence occult organisations today.  Mathers adapted Eliphas Lévi's system of magick and traced the 'ancestry' of the Golden Dawn to the Rosicrucians and beyond to Ancient Egypt.

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