Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn



The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism especially in the concepts of magic and ritual at the center of contemporary traditions, such as Wicca and Thelema.  

The three founders, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers were Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana.  The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and initiation and women were admitted on an equal basis with men. The Golden Dawn had three Orders.  

The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the Hermetic Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of the four Classical Elements as well as the basics of astrology, tarot divination, and geomancy.  

The Second or "Inner" Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis, taught proper magic, including scrying, astral 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.  

The foundational documents of the Order of the Golden Dawn are known as the Cipher Manuscripts; they were 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 Qabalah, astrology, occult tarot, geomancy, and alchemy.  The manuscripts were passed to Rev. A.F.A. Woodford, who died shortly after the Order was founded).  In February 1886 he passed them on to Freemason William Wynn Westcott, who managed to decode them in 1887.  The ciphers gave a series of teachings from the Secret Chiefs, ascended humans or supernatural beings.  Westcott called Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers for help to turn the manuscripts into a coherent system.  Mathers designed the curriculum and rituals of the Second Order, which he called the Rosae Rubae et Aureae Crucis.  

In October 1887, Westcott wrote to a German contact whose name was revealed in the Cipher Manuscripts. The contact sent the founders honorary grades of Adeptus Exemptus and a charter for a Golden Dawn temple.  In 1888, the Isis-Urania Temple was founded in London.  It was called "the Outer Order" or "First Order" and for four years the Golden Dawn existed only in this order. The "Inner Order", which became active in 1892, was the circle of adepts who had completed the entire course of study for the Outer Order.  In a short time, the Osiris temple in Weston-super-Mare, the Horus temple in Bradford, and the Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh were founded.  A few years after this, Mathers founded the Ahathoor temple in Paris.   

In 1891, Westcott's correspondence with Germany ceased.  He received word from that the leaders did not approve of the founding of the Order.  In 1892, Mathers performed a ritual to contact the Secret Chiefs who then supplied rituals for the Second Order, called the Red Rose and Cross of Gold.  These 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.   

By the mid 1890s, the Golden Dawn was well established in Great Britain, with membership rising to over a hundred and including every class of Victorian society. In its heyday many celebrities, poets and artists belonged to the Golden Dawn.

Around 1897, Westcott broke all ties to the Golden Dawn, leaving Mathers in control.   XXX   Towards 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. 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, 1900. Upon his return to the London temple, Crowley requested the grade papers to which he was now entitled.   

To the London Adepts, this was the last straw and Farr protested the London temple should be closed. A long period of wrangling ensued, which splintered the Golden Dawn into factions.  Crowley emerged as the head of his own magical order but there were other orders, which clung more to the original traditions of their founders.   

In the glare of the Occult beliefs of the Nazi Inner Party, the Thule Society, who shared many of the precepts of the Golden Dawn including direction from Secret Masters most temples such Alpha et Omega and Stella Matutina retreated away from the glare of the public by claiming dissolution and went underground. Public records show the Last Temples to be ‘closed’ in this way were The Hermes Temple in Bristol, in 1970, and the Whare Ra in Havelock North, New Zealand in 1978.



Great Beast

Chymical Wedding
Christian Rosenkreutz
of the
Rosy Cross