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Mathers, S(amuel) L(iddell) MacGregor(1854-1918)

Mathers, S(amuel) L(iddell) MacGregor(1854-1918)

Leading British occultist who was one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Born in Hackney, London, January 8, 1854, he lived with his mother at Bournemouth after the early death of his father. As a boy he was intensely interested in symbolism and mysticism. He claimed a romantic descent from Ian MacGregor of Glenstrae, an ardent Jacobite who was given the title of Comte de Glenstrae by Louis XIV.

Mathers became a Freemason on October 4, 1877, and a Master Mason on January 30, 1878, soon after his 24th birthday. His mystical interests led him to become a member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (Rosicrucian Society of England), where he was an associate of William Wynn Westcott, William Robert Woodman, and Kenneth Mackenzie. Together with Westcott and Woodman, Mathers founded the Golden Dawn in 1888. Meanwhile he lived in poverty after the death of his mother in 1885 and spent much time researching occultism at the British Museum Library, London.

Anna Kingsford introduced him to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Blavatsky invited him to collaborate in the building of the Theosophical Society, but he declined. In 1890 he married Moina Bergson, sister of the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Soon afterward he moved to Paris with his wife.

Mathers and his wife received a small allowance from Annie Horniman (daughter of the founder of the Horniman Museum, London, and a member of the Golden Dawn), so that he might continue his studies on behalf of the order. However, disputes developed between them on financial issues, and in December 1896 Mathers peremptorily expelled Horniman from the organization.

Mathers was also deceived by the charlatans Theodore and Laura Horos, who acquired Golden Dawn rituals from him for their own misuse. Other disagreements developed in the order, and during a dispute between Mathers and British officials, a youthful Aleister Crowley sided with Mathers and attempted to take over the London premises and documents. The poet W. B. Yeats, a noted member, played a prominent part in rejecting Crowley. Eventually Mathers himself was expelled from the Golden Dawn.

Mathers died November 20, 1918. The MacGregor Mathers Society was founded in Britain as a dining club for men only, membership by invitation. The society can be contacted at BM#Spirotos (M.M.S.), London W.C.1, England. Mathers's most lasting contributions to the magical revival of the twentieth century were his many translations of key magical texts, which he rescued from the obscurity into which they had fallen.


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

Mathers, S. L. MacGregor. Astral Projection, Ritual Magic, and Alchemy. Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 1987.

. The Kabbalah Unveiled. 1907. Reprint, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1926.

. The Key of Solomon the King. 1889. Reprinted as: The Greater Key of Solomon. Chicago: De Laurence, 1914.

Mathers, S. L. MacGregor, trans. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. 1898. Reprint, Chicago: De Laurence, 1932. Reprint, New York: Causeway Books, 1974.

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