Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

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Golden Dawn, Hermetic Order of the

Fountainhead of the modern revival of ceremonial magic. As a secret order it attracted some of the most interesting and talented personalities of its time, including poet William Butler Yeats, Annie Horniman (who sponsored the Abbey Theatre, Dublin), Florence Farr (mistress of G. B. Shaw), S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, A. E. Waite, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Violet Firth, and many others.

The order dated from the discovery in 1887 of a cipher manuscript, bought from a bookstall in Farringdon Road, London, by William Wynn Westcott. He was a coroner and a member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (Rosicrucian Society of Freemasons). Westcott deciphered the manuscript, which contained a series of mystical rituals. With the aid of his occult-ist friend MacGregor Mathers, these rituals were expanded and systematized. Also among the pages of the manuscript was a slip of paper with the address of Fräulein Anna Sprengel, a Rosicrucian adept living in Germany.

Reportedly, Westcott corresponded with Sprengel, who authorized him to found an English branch of the occult society Die Goldene Dämmerung (The Golden Dawn). It has been suggested, however, that Sprengel did not exist and that Westcott fabricated the correspondence to establish the new secret order.

The Isis-Urania Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was established in London in 1888, with Westcott, Mathers, and W. R. Woodman (another occultist Freemason) as chiefs. Between 1888 and 1896 the Osiris Temple was formed at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; the Horus Temple at Bradford, Yorkshire; the Amen-Ra Temple at Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Ahathoor Temple in Paris. A total of 315 initiations took place during this period.

The Golden Dawn consisted of ten main grades, associated with the symbolism of the Kabala: zelator 10°=100°, theoricus 20°=90°, practicus 30°=80°, philosophus 40°=70°, adeptus minor 50°=60°, adeptus major 60°=50°, adeptus exemptus 70°=40°, magister templi 80°=30°, magus 90°=20°, and ipsissimus 100°=10°.

Selected candidates who passed the adeptus minor grade might qualify for admission to a secret second orderthe Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (Order of the Red Rose and Cross of Gold). Behind the second order loomed the so-called secret chiefs, equivalent to the fabled mahatmas of the Theosophical Society. These chiefs might be contacted on the astral plane.

The complex rituals of the order were partially revealed in the journal The Equinox by Aleister Crowley, who joined the Golden Dawn in November 1898 and left early in 1900. A more detailed record of the teaching, rites, and ceremonies was later published by Israel Regardie in four volumes (1937-40).

Although the rituals of the Golden Dawn were little more than a rather complicated Freemasonry embroidered with occult symbolism, the special studies related to them developed the individual's insight into occultism and mysticism. The poet W. B. Yeats placed a high value on his magic studies with the order and once wrote, "If I had not made magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen have ever come to exist."

Yeats played a prominent part in a conflict with Aleister Crowley, who tried to take over the London lodge in 1900. Crowley was expelled from the Golden Dawn, and Yeats took charge of the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis and also became imperator of the Isis-Urania Temple Outer Order. Crowley eventually founded his own order (the AA ) in 1905, using material he had first encountered in the Golden Dawn.

The Golden Dawn continued to fragment as leadership of the various branches changed hands and new orders were formed. Several Golden Dawn offshoots are still in existence; possibly the most substantive is the Los Angeles-based Builders of the Adytum. In addition several new groups have organized, in part to offer an alternative to the magic practiced in those groups that derive from Aleister Crowley.


Colquhoun, Ithell. The Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1975.

Gilbert, Robert A. The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1983.

Harper, George Mills. Yeats's Golden Dawn. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Howe, Ellic. The Magicians of the Golden Dawn. London, 1972.

King, Francis. Astral Projection, Ritual Magic & Alchemy: Being Hitherto Unpublished Gold Dawn Material. London: Neville Spearman, 1971.

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Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. 4 vols. Chicago: Aries Press, 1937-40. Reprint, St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1989.

. What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn. Phoenix: Falcon Press, 1983.

Roberts, Marie. British Poets and Secret Societies. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1986.

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Torrens, Robert George. The Inner Teachings of the Golden Dawn. London: Neville Spearman, 1969.

. Secret Rituals of the Golden Dawn. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1973.

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Wang, Robert, and Chris Zalewski. Z-Five: Secret Teachings of the Golden Dawn. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1991.

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. Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn. Phoenix: Falcon Press, 1988.

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Golden Dawn, Hermetic Order of the (1982)

The original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD), founded in 1888, became the origin of magical activity of the twentieth century. Though short-lived, it members went on to found and lead groups that carried on its traditions. The main body of documents generated by the order have been published, beginnings with the several published by Aleister Crowley in his magazine Equinox. In the 1930s, Israel Regardie (1907-1985) oversaw the publication of the basic body of the HOGD rituals. In the meantime, the primary thrust of ceremonial magic continued through Crowley's thelemic teachings.

In the 1970s, contemporaneous with the revival of Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis, some magical students, including Chris Monnastre, began to seek a revival of the HOGD and turned to Regardie as a teacher in the tradition who was still available. He took in a few students to train them in the belief and practice of the HOGD. Then, in 1982, with Regardie's blessing, Monnastre resurrected the Golden Dawn and founded the Osiris Khenti Amenti Temple. Simultaneously, Regardie gave her several of his personal magical tools which she gave to the new order. The order exists in two divisions, the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae.

Since the founding of the original temple, subsequent temples have been formed. The order has also brought together individuals and small groups possessing lineages and charters from the various groups evolving from the original HOGD, including the Stella Matutina and the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn (founded by writer Arthur Edward Waite ). These groups have been brought together in the United Confederation of Independent and Autonomous Temples.

The new HOGD, one of several efforts to revive the Golden Dawn, has set itself against those revival groups that offer self-initiations or what are termed "astral" initiations. All ritual initiations for this group will be done in the physical presence of HOGD leaders.

The headquarters of the HOGD is at 270 N. Canon Dr., Ste. 1302, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Website: http://www.magusbook.com.


Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. 4 vols. Chicago: Aries Press, 1937-40. Reprint, St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1971.

. What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn. Phoenix, Ariz.: Falcon Press, 1983.