Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (2024)


"The Historical Golden DawnR.R. et A.C."

Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (1)

I - General Introduction - A Brief Overview of the Golden Dawn

II - Victorian Britain - History, Culture, and Politics

III - Occult Influences on the Golden Dawn - The History of Western Hermetic Thought

IV - Offline

V - What Has Gone Before - A Detailed History of the Golden Dawn

VI - The Golden Dawn Temple - Officers Ceremony and Costume

VII - The French Rosicrucian Movement

Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (2)

I - General Introduction

— A Brief Overview of the Golden Dawn —

Welcome to Golden Aeon

Most of you probably know something of the background of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This is a short summary. In writing Golden Aeon, I have been acutely aware of the importance of the order, not simply as a source of original esoteric ideas, but in relevance to art and political history.

In order to understand the Golden Dawn, we must understand the time in which it grew, and the cultural influences on its founders. I think it is also very useful to understand what happened to the Golden Dawn afterwards, and its influence on modern thought, particularly on the popular culture of the 1960 and early 1970s.

In this document alone, you will find an “accurate” history of the Golden Dawn. The author is fully aware of the shortcomings of the cipher manuscripts, and the various theories as to their origins, the most likely being that they were forged by someone close to William Wynn Westcott, and that Westcott – and most likely Mathers – at least knew perfectly well that the ciphers were of no notable antiquity, and were probably aware of their true origin. Here we will also mention briefly the “revolution” of 1900, in which the English Temples defied Mathers, and the organization split into factions. In the other documents for this game, you will find few references to these matters. The cipher manuscripts and the ephermal “secret chiefs” of the order can be taken as gospel. This event is not about the Golden Dawn as it can be understood historically ninety-nine years later, but rather about the Golden Dawn as its participants understood it in its heydey, the last few months of 1899, leading into the turmoil of 1900. Our drama will be set in the universe as the Golden Dawn understood it.

For that reason, it is not necessary to believe or practice the things which the members of the Golden Dawn believed and practiced. Even to the most conservative of occultists many of the Golden Dawn beliefs – particularly the belief in “Secret Chiefs” seem ludicrous at best. Golden Aeon is not about believing the teachings of the Golden Dawn, but about understanding them, in historical context, and if there is one strength to live roleplaying it is that there is no better context than “being there.”

What we refer to as the “Heremetic Order of the Golden Dawn” was two organizations, formed in 1888 and 1892 respectively. The organization was the brainchild of Dr. William Wynn Westcott, an amiable London coroner. His partners in the affair were Dr. W.R. Woodman, and Samuel Lidell “MacGregor” Mathers. Westcott seems to have been the initial organizational mind behind the Golden Dawn. Woodman was the Supreme Magus of a reputable Rosicrucian organization, and was doubtless selected to lend credibility to the new organization. Mathers was chosen because of his quirky, but irrefutable genius with ritual and all things magical.

The Golden Dawn had a charter from a supposed German Rosicrucian Lodge, issued by an aged German adept named “Fraulein Anna Sprengel.” The basis for the Golden Dawn’s rituals was a “cipher manuscript” discovered by Westcott, and deciphered by Mathers. Westcott’s initial temple was styled “No. 3.” Supposedly temple No. 1 was the German Lodge which issued the charter, and Temple No. 2 is supposed to have been an initial abortive experiment at a smaller, “secret” temple in England about ten years earlier, which had initially held the cipher manuscript.

The initial Golden Dawn was the “Outer Order” which did not teach practical magic, but existed for the most part as a philosophical and esoteric group. The Outer Order members did work grades and initiation rituals, but they did little in the way of practical operations. For the first four years the Golden Dawn existed only in the “Outer.” In late 1892, the “Inner Order” rituals – and the physical “Vault of the Adepts” which plays an important part in the rituals – were completed.

From this point on the history of the Golden Dawn is really the history of the small “Inner Order.” Those who were actively interested in the occult progressed quickly to the “Inner Order,” which had separate meeting places and facilities from the “Outer Order.” When we talk of the “Golden Dawn” after 1892, we are speaking of the “Inner Order” to all intents and purposes.

The Golden Dawn prospered, more or less, for ten years. It had a number of temples, most of them quite small. The primary temples were the original “Isis Urania” temple in London, the “Amen-Ra” Temple in Edinburgh, and the “Ahathoor” Temple in Paris. Mathers left London in 1892 to live in Paris, and his temple there became the nominal center of the organization, though it was notable chiefly for his presence.

Historically the Golden Dawn underwent its first collapse in 1900. Amid accusations that the organization’s charter was forged, and arguments over Mathers’ authority, the original structure crumbled, and over the next three years the Golden Dawn divided, and divided again.

While none of the “splinter” organizations have the cachet of the original, many of them were significant in their own right, and certainly the membership of Golden-Dawn descended organizations was greater, not smaller, twenty years after the split. The Stella Matutina, the Alpha et Omega, and the Independent and Rectified Rite were all direct descendants of the Dawn’s first schism. Another set of disagreements in the early 1920s split some of the larger descendant groups again, and by the 1940s most of the original groups had vanished, though a few tiny groups survived into the 1970s with a tenuous claim on direct descent.

The “Apostolic Succession” of teachers, and the literature of the Golden Dawn, was more important than the actual direct descendants. Before the First World War, Aliester Crowley published the essential rituals and teachings of the Golden Dawn in a serial issue called “The Equinox.” For the first time the “secrets” of the Golden Dawn were available to the public. “The Equinox” created a stir in the small and fading occult community, but it was not until after the First World War that interest in the occult exploded.

Figures such as “Dion Fortune” (Violet Firth) popularized the teachings of the Golden Dawn in novels, and serious, but simply written, books like “Psychical Self Defense.” Groups organized by pupils of Dion Fortune prosper to this day. Aliester Crowley published a wealth of somewhat more obtuse material which forms the core teachings of the modern Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) in America. Israel Regardie, who was once Crowley’s secretary, published the workings of the Stella Matutina (essentially identical to the original GD teachings) in the twenties and earned himself expulsion, but his volumes remain in print to this day. Groups such as the original and the modern OTO, Paul Foster Case’s “Builders of the Adytum”, and dozens of less well known groups are indirect descendants of the Golden Dawn.

Moreover, the Golden Dawn has a place in cultural history that far exceeds its importance as an occult oganization. The “Occult Renaissance” of the 1920s spawned ideas that were resurrected in the 1960s. The “Age of Aquarius” owes a great deal to 19th century Theosophy, and Spiritism. When the Beatles travelled to India in the mid 1960s, they were not embarking on a bold new quest, but were resurrecting an idea that had echoed through British culture since Blatavasky – that wisdom and enlightenment could be found in the East.

But the writing that preserved the ideas of the 19th century mystics owes drastically more to the Golden Dawn than to Helena Blatavsky. While her writings, and indeed her organization, still exist, they are obtuse and have never been widely read. It is the simplified synthesis that came out of the Golden Dawn descendants in the 1920s that was produced in mass market editions through the 20’s and 30’s and found its way into popular culture. The break between Blatavasky and the Hermeticists came with her rejection of all things western for all things eastern. The essential teaching of the Golden Dawn was the unification of all things esoteric – eastern and western.

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (3)

II. - Victorian England

Culture, History, and Politics

Golden Aeon is a historical game. To enter into a game set in England in 1899 without understanding the time, and the mindset of the people who were living would make much of the context of the game irrelevant. Without its setting in Victorian England, Golden Aeon might just as well be a fantasy game, which it very much is not. You may also already be familiar with the Victorian period. I hope you'll read ahead anyway. The Victorian period is sweeping, and though the late 90's are probably closest to our view of what would constitute "typical" Victorian attitudes, the fact is that the period is a diverse one.

To understand the time is to understand the characters, their fears, their motivations. It is important to remember that few or none of the characters in this game are "upper class." The Golden Dawn was a middle class phenomenon, and while some of its members - Gardner, Hornimann, even Florence Farr were of independent means, most were not vastly wealthy. Throughout the history of the order matters of tens or hundreds of pounds (a few hundred or few thousand dollars today) colored the alliances and politics of the order. While "MacGregor" Mathers might make pretensions to Jacobite nobility, the manners, and thoughts, of the majority of the members of the Golden Dawn were based in middle class Victoriana.
Yet if the Victorian period is seen as a one dimensional tapestry of repressed and conservative sexuality, many of these characters do not make sense. Who typifies Victorian sexuality - Annie Horniman, or Florence Farr? These social issues we'll explore in a later bluesheet. Here we will lay the foundation for an understanding of the history, and life events of the characters.

What Came Before - The Georgian Period

To understand England of the late Victorian Era, it is necessary to understand the two periods that preceded it - the Georgian and Regency periods.

The Georgian period was in many ways the perfection of the Enlightenment. Issues that had been argued a century before were dead in the 1750s - Classical thought and culture had prevailed. The medieval church was defeated and the educated classes embraced scientific rationalism. Art, architecture, and music reflected classical themes. The late Georgian period saw the opening shots of the Industrial Revolution. Before the first decade of the 19th century industry had begun to change the British countryside, and mills foundries and other industrial sites were becoming the centers of growing urbanization.

Georgian society would be the last English society in which a monied aristocracy would be the prevailing influence on popular thought. Already a strong undercurrent was running against the aristocracy, and its power was checkmated again and again throughout the century.

The American Revolution was a pinnacle of Georgian culture. An alliance of bourgeoisie merchants and intellectual aristocratic farmers (for such were men like Jefferson and Washington) founded a new government based heavily on the classical principles of the Romans and Greeks. This culture flourished in Britain and America. Alexis de Tocqueville, touring the U.S. in the early 19th century was amazed that the common farmers avidly read not one but several newspapers. The French farmer was, by an overwhelming statistic, illiterate. The bizarre dichotomy by which the ideals of our founding fathers seem so much more elevated, lofty, and liberal than the ideals of the statesmen of the Victorian era is a perfect expression of the difference between Georgian, and Victorian, society.

In context to our event, it should be noted that esotericism was a profound and vital undercurrent during the Georgian age. Rosicrucianism had emerged in the Enlightenment, and blossomed during the Georgian era. Freemasonry became an important political movement, linked with ideals of republicanism, egalitarianism, and intellectualism. Not only were the overwhelming majority of the founding fathers of the United States Freemasons - the "enlightened" Hapsburg Emperor Franz-Jozef was a Freemason as well. Movements such as the "Barvarian Illuminati" seem much less mysterious and clearer in this context - the concept that a benign class of educated intellectuals should rule over prosperous agrarian republics was the ideal of the Georgian farmer-intellectual. In only one state did it see fruition - the United States of America which was ruled by farmer-intellectuals for twenty eight years from 1789-1817, save for the four years of John Adams' administration. The writings, architecture, and University of Thomas Jefferson are the embodiment of this Georgian concept.

If the Georgian period was liberal and intellectual, it was also corrupt and full of vice. In the earlier and mid 18th century the illustrations of William Hogarth give a vivid impression of the sordid side of society. Works such as Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" drew a vivid picture of the callow immorality of the aristocracy. The most liberal of Georgian ladies led lives of splendor and decadence.

The Regency

The Georgian Era was followed by the Regency in England. The decadent Prince Regent, who eventually reigned as George IV, conveyed his lack of purpose and morality to the intellectual and aristocratic classes. The British won their long war against the French, and quashed Napoleon's "Hundred Days," but a series of economic crises rocked England. The proliferation of mechanical weaving frames threatened one of the last profitable cottage industries and spurred the "Luddite" movement which smashed weaving frames starting in 1813, in an attempt to obtain through force regulation that the government would not grant through law. The Tory government of Lord Liverpool lived in fear of a Revolution along the lines of the French or American Revolution, and in 1819 at Peterloo in London fired into peaceful crowds.

The collapse of Regency England followed. A period of Reform stretched through the remainder of the Prince Regent's reign as King - by the time George IV died in 1837, Georgian thought had been swept away.

The "Age of Reform"

The "Age of Reform" and the early Victorian period can be classified as an age of contradictions. On one hand there was tremendous progress in democratic and judicial reform. The conditions in which the average Englishman lived made some improvements - even the impoverished of the 1890s ate better and lived better than the impoverished of the 1790s.

On the other hand there was much hypocrisy, and tremendous moral conservatism. It is important to understand that in Britain, more than in America, the Georgian age missed the common man. Enlightenment and rationalism were unknown concepts. Strong faith in God, and a highly conservative personal morality were typical in the middle class English family. In the Victorian age, for the first time, this morality was imposed on the upper class. The Tories adopted it to try and live down the disgraces of the Regency.

The period from 1819 to 1832 was turbulent and painful for England. Middle class moralism swallowed up the old aristocratic class, culminating in the passage of the First Reform Act, which enfranchised a vast new class of voters. However, the morality of the day was by no means hypocritical. Vast strides were made in what we would today term "human rights." Robert Peel introduced the modern "police force" - "Peelers" providing an alternative to anarchy or military rule in the growing urban regions. The Tories plunged into disfavor and attempted reform as the "Conservative" party - eventually even many of the "Conservatives" would split ranks to the Liberals.

The Victorian Era

By the time Victoria came to the throne, some stability had returned to England. The Reform Act alleviated the more critical tensions of the 20's, and gave way to a series of moderate governments under Lamb and Peel.

Traditionally in looking at the Victorian period we picture a long era of staunch conservatism and Imperial sentiment, punctuated by a watershed of reforms after the turn of the century. In reality, nothing could be further from the case.

Overwhelmingly, the Victorian period was liberal, and progressive. Sexually and morally, it was middle-class. And certainly there was plenty of hypocrisy. The middle class that had fought for its rights in the 1820's grew wealthy and complacent with business, and middle class sons of middle class fathers formed their own rigid social structures. Acutely conscious of their lack of aristocratic breeding, they were far more restrained and repressive than the Georgian aristocracy. "Old money" was contrasted to "New Money." Business became a religion of sorts. Those who had made the grade had their choice of believing that God or Darwin rewarded the shrewd and aggressive, and that the poor suffered because they were unworthy or unmotivated.

Charles Dickens shows us that side of the Victorian age. The middle class businessman Scrooge ignores the poor, and mistreats his employees as viciously as a medieval baron.

The Victorian period saw the real birth of the middle class as a force in politics and social structure. A rising mercantile class had been prominent in Europe since the 13th century, and critical in the 18th century, but in the 19th century it swept away all but the most hollow vestiges of the ancien regime. The age of the "common man" had come. The working class climbed to new heights, and agitated for more. The 19th century saw the writings of Marx and Engels congeal from political philosophy into political party doctrine. By 1892 a Socialist from Lancashire would win election to the British Parliament.

For the first time the middle class was not merely large, but a vast majority, sweeping every structure away in its path. Morally and religiously conservative, it was unquestionably liberal in comparison to anything that had ever been seen before. It brought with it a vast new prosperity, in the form of goods, services, and materials. Overseas, Britian began the transition from mercantile colonial empire to the organized system of administration that would be the British Empire of the 20th century. By the end of the century the "White man's burden" rather than casual profiteering, would drive the British Empire.

The period from the 1860's to the 1880s was overall very liberal. This was the classic period of the dandyish Conservative - Disraeli, and the commoner Liberal - Gladstone. Victoria is reliably said to have hated Gladstone and considered him vulgar and potentially dangerous. But Gladstone drove British politics for nearly three decades.

Despite a Conservative Government from 1874-1880, the overall tone of the seventies was liberal, in terms of art, literature, and politics. In Parliament liberal leadership shifted towards "near Socialists" like Joseph Chamberlain and Charles Wentworth Dilke

The Eighties and Nineties - death of the Liberal Cause, and the Rise of the Liberal Unionists

The zenith of 19th century liberalism was the Gladstone government of 1880-1885, which called for such modern measures as “graduated income tax, free education, improved housing for the poor, local government reform, and “three acres and a cow” for agricultural workers. The Liberals sought "disestablishment" of the Church of England - that is the removal of the Church as an "official" facet of the state - a debate that was mostly educational. At this point a tremendous amount of education was done parochial schools, and the Liberals sought to shift the flow of funds from parochial schools to "private" schools - those not affiliated with the Church of England.

The Liberal era was not to last. A series of defeats abroad injured national pride, and allowed the Conservatives to rally the British public on a nationalist platform. In 1881 the British were defeated by Kruger in the First Boer War. In 1884 General Gordon was killed by religious fanatics supporting the Mahdi in the Sudan. It is suggested that “a Conservative rise reflected a growing disenchantment with social reform in the country and marked a new emphasis upon empire and foreign affairs."

The Gladstone government collapsed over the issue of Irish Home Rule. The Irish members of Parliament felt they had a better chance at Home Rule with the Conservatives, who courted their votes in Parliament. Charles Parnell moved the Irish faction in Parliament to voting Conservative, and dissolved the government. An interim Conservative government formed under Lord Salisbury.

In the General Election, the Liberals managed to attain a majority but only with the support of the Irish members of Parliament. Gladstone, at 77, returned to politics converted to Home Rule, and introduced the First Home Rule Bill in 1886 after the General Elections. Lord Hartington's Whigs refused to join the Liberal Government. Joseph Chamberlain's "Unionists" resigned. The Home Rule bill failed and the Government collapsed again.

In the following election, the Conservatives cooperated with Chamberlain's "Liberal Unionists" and formed a coalition government afterwards. The result was a moderate Conservative government that would dominate England until 1906.

Gladstone did return once more, in 1892, with the Second Home Rule bill. The Bill passed Commons, but was voted down by the House of Lords by an overwhelming majority - the last real exercise of the power of Lords in the history of Great Britain. Gladstone was forced to resign, and the more Imperialist and conservative Lord Rosebery became Prime Minister. Shortly thereafter the Liberal-Conservative coalition returned Salisbury to power, and the party would remain in power until after the turn of the century.

The Boer War

The outbreak of the(second) Boer War was the last major political event in the 19th century. The War was the "Vietnam" of the British Empire. Launched with patriotic fervor and enthusiasm in 1899, the War was a costly success. British forces at Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley were surrounded, and the British suffered several reversals and defeats. In December of 1899, the War was going disastrously. The British defeated Boer commandos in November at Belmont and Modder River, but Lord Meuthen took losses so severe he was forced to wait for reinforcements before relieving Kimberly. Reinforced he attacked the Boers at Magersfontein and was bitterly repulsed.

The ultimate humiliation came just a few days after our Colenso, the British were forced to abandon their artillery and abort an attempt to cross the Tugela river. On January 24, 1900 they were dealt another nasty defeat at Spion Kop. The War would drag on until 1902, with a British victory largely due to crushing numeric superiority.

Art and Literature

No period exists without a counterculture. During the mid and late Georgian period, poets, artists and painters began to hearken back to a period before Georgian rationalism. Often preserving Catholic sentiments, they toyed with ideas of feudalism, religious awe, and emotion. These were the Romantics, a literary school that found its final release in the works of Byron, Coleridge, Keats and Shelley. It has been suggested that "Enlightenment thinkers and artists assumed that humankind is essentially similar across all ages and geographic origins," while "romantics generally believed in the uniqueness of individual expression as it is constituted by life experience, an important dimension of which is frequently national character." Romanticism as a movement prevailed from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century, perhaps reaching it's climax with Charles Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal.

Romanticism is of profound interest to us, because it is linked heavily with the supernatural. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, was a romantic work, and supernatural elements formed a background element a great deal of romantic literature and art.

A thread of Romanticism pervades the Victorian period. The Pre-Raphaelite movement in the mid 19th century focused on similar ideals - primarily a visual arts movement, the Pre-Raphaelites left a literary legacy in the criticism of John Ruskin, of whom it has been said "his aesthetic theory was based on 'truth to nature,' but this was truth as apprehended by the imagination and not by the eye." Dante Gabriel Rosetti is representative of the movement, and had what were probably the strongest supernatural influences.

The 1870s saw the birth of "Symbolism" in France, a poetic movement which was naturalistic (and thus inherently opposed to Victorian industrialism) and as with the Pre-Raphaelites focused on the emotional and irrational aspects of human existence. Symbolism was linked to the "Art Nouveau" visual movement which flourished around the turn of the century, and was epitomized in England by Aubrey Beardsley.

Literature saw a revival of romantic supernatural literature, including Bram Stoker's Dracula

On the continent the Impressionists had broken down the conformity of Victorian painting, and by the time of Golden Aeon, a new breed of artist was exploring new forms of representation that would provide the underpinnings of twentieth century abstract art. Artists such as Cezanne and Seraut typified this new school, which flourished from about 1880, but would be termed "postimpressionist" only in 1910.

It is significant of all of these movements that they were "counter-movements" to the established art of the day. Nevertheless they were powerful and meaningful, and in retrospect eclipse the "formal" art of the time.


All of this bears on the attitudes and perceptions of the characters in our drama. The Georgian influence will be obvious when we explore the occult origins of the dawn, steeped in Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

Within the Victorian era, it is no coincidence that the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888 - two years after the Liberal Collapse - and that it flourished throughout the placid Salisbury conservatism. Allen has suggested that in periods of Conservatism, thought becomes introspective - intellectuals turn their thoughts toward the self rather than outwards towards the world or the political system. The Occult lodge is certainly a product of this mindset. The explorations of the 1870s became publicly unacceptable, and the Golden Dawn provided an outlet for fascination with Romantic subjects.

The interest of the Golden Dawn members in the occult and supernatural is reflected in the profound Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite influences on the work of the Golden Dawn's most notable literary figure, William Butler Yeats - an influence that was softened only in the late Edwardian period under the influence of Ezra Pound. The influence of Aubrey Beardsley on Moina Mathers can be clearly seen in her illustrations from society papers.

Certainly the Golden Dawn picked up momentum and gained popularity almost in pace with the development of Art Noveau, and the acceptance of postimpressionism - eventually the order itself would disintegrate, but though its successors are not as well known, they were if anything more vital and active than the core order. The troubles that ended the Golden Dawn were not a rejection of the occult arts, but rather a series of explosions in radically different directions on the part of its members. In Golden Aeon we stand on the threshold of that explosion.

There can be little doubt that the "rebellion" and cynicism of the summer of 1900 within the Golden Dawn was a reflection of the overall cynicism and disillusionment within Britain after the embarrassment of the first year of the Boer War. But the movement was towards the rejection of autocratic rule, and the fantasy of "secret masters," not to a rejection of the basic principles of the Golden Dawn.

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (4)

III - Occult Influences on the Golden Dawn

— The History of Western Hermetic Thought —

The Ancient West

The principal background for the Golden Dawn is western magic. The east certainly exerted an influence on the Golden Dawn system, largely through the Theosophist movement and H. P. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. What of the east reached the Golden Dawn did so through intermediaries, however. The roots of the Golden Dawn system are western, and in looking at it's origins we will focus on the history of magic in the west.

Aleister Crowley, posited that "Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will," (Magick in Theory and Practice, 1929). Without doubt throughout most of mankind's past, Magic, Religion, and Science were seen as a whole cloth.

Beginning with the ancient Greeks we first see the beginnings of the intellectual separation of Religion and Science. Even this should not be overrated - understanding that Pythogoreanism was much more important as a religious and philosophical teaching than as a system of geometry gives some insight into the degree to which religion, magic, and science, are one element. At the Greek colony of Croton where he settled in the late sixth century BC, Pythagoras was identified as Apollo.

In The History of Magic (1977), Richard Cavendish says: "From the seventh century B.C. Greek rationalism made inroads into magic's territory by looking for natural explanations of what had previously been considered supernatural. The Roman world, however, experienced a resurgence of interest in magic comparable to the modern occult revival. In the melting-pot of the Roman Empire influences from the East, Greece, Rome itself and the barbarian cultures of western and northern Europe mingles and fused together to form the western magical tradition."

To the Romans and Greeks, "Magic" was something foreign and dubious - mystical practices that were a part of local tradition were, of course, religion. The Romans and Greeks also tended not to have powerful "specialist" priesthoods. The peoples they associated with magic - the Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, and Jews, did have dedicated priestly casts, and their arts were believed to give them special knowledge and insights into the nature of the divine, and the working of the universe. The Romans and Greeks also had a healthy respect for the magic of the Brahmins, and the Celts, though they had much less knowledge of their culture and practices.

A useful philosophical distinction to make here would be the general difference between "high magic" and "low magic." High magic can be considered to be those magical practices that aim at gaining a greater control and understanding of the self and the atmosphere - learning to transcend human limitations, and apprehend the divine. Low magic focuses on comparatively minor results - the discovery of treasure, revenge, and love spells, having its low end in fortune-telling and lucky charms.

Undoubtedly many of the magical practices of those peoples the Romans conquered and traded with were primarily oriented towards "High Magical" practices in the beginning. But the vast urbanization of the Roman Empire, as well as the fact of Roman sovereignty must have caused a tremendous boom in low magical practices and writings.

Numerous Pseudo-messianic figures such as Pythagoras in the sixth century, Apollonius of Tyana and Simon Magus in the first century C.E. and Julian the Chaldean in the second century, dot the landscape of Hellenic magical culture. Various foreign "mystery" cults which were imported to Rome as novelties in the centuries of Imperial expansion. The cults of Dionysius, Attis, Isis and Osiris, Mithras, and others - arguably including Christianity - certainly played a part in the hom*ogenization of a "western" occult tradition.

Two religious currents led to the "pinnacle" of western hermetic culture in the third and fourth centuries C.E. - Gnosticism and Neoplatonism.

Gnosticism is, in simplest form, the belief in religious enlightenment through direct, personal, apprehension of the divine. This may sound quaint and rather simplistic in a day when many or most Protestant churches acknowledge the validity of personal divine experience, and some radical Christian churches even encourage "Gnosis" through aisle-rolling, or "speaking in tongues." An implicit element of Gnosticism is the notion that the human body, and indeed the physical universe, are a "prison" for the spirit, which yearns to rise and escape into an ephermal realm transcendent of matter. Gnosticism is "Dualistic" which means that it sees a universe in which a divine spirit of light is balanced in the creation by a malign "creator" who imprisoned the world in flesh - a concept which it probably drew from Persian Zoastrianism, in which Ahura-Mazada and Ahrimann war for control of the universe. As an interesting side note, it is exposure to Persian belief during the Babylonian exile that introduced the dualistic figure of "Satan" into Judaism, and thus eventually Christianity.

The principal figure in the early Neoplatonist movement is Plotinus, who rejected Gnosticism because he could not tolerate the idea of a dualistic universe. Neoplatonism is "a revival and reinterpretation of Plato's doctrine of essential, pre-existing 'forms.'" In actual belief however, it maintains many of the qualities of Gnosticism. There is one great infinite perfect "one" which emanates reality and intelligence, and creates the lesser souls of human beings. The souls of humans, however, can either remain pure, and preserve their image of the infinite, or become corrupt through immersion in the sensual world. The act of seeking unity with the infinite is an inherently positive act. Neoplatonism was the last great intellectual movement of paganism, and its extinction ushered in the era of Christian dominance in western theological thought. Christian writers borrowed a great deal of Neoplatonist philosophy, but it would not be until the time Cosimo De Medici that the core works of Neoplatonism would again see the light. It is notable that the Renaissance - and the rediscovery of classical learning, is considered by many scholars to have specifically begun with the translation of the Corpus Hermetica under the patronage of Cosimo De Medici.

The Corpus Hermetica is a jumbled and contradictory body of texts which have survived from the second and third centuries C.E. The primary thread which holds this writing together is its attribution to "Hermes Trismegistus" (Thrice Blessed Hermes) - mythical figure personifying the perfected scholar. It is fairly clear that the idea of Hermes as a real human being was considered irrelevant by his students - they were aware that their theoretical teacher was a personification of the Roman Deity Hermes. There was also a close link to the Egyptian scholar cult of Thoth (bearing in mind that by this time the culture of Egypt had been long subsumed by the Ptolemaic Greek culture). Hermeticism shows strong, and sometimes contradictory influences from Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism.

The Corpus Hermetica is considered to include, or closely relate to, a vast array of "magical papyri" which were authored at roughly the same time. The magical papyri address Neoplatonic and Gnostic Hellenic theology, but they also contain a huge quantity of "low magic" - spells, incantations, and cantrips.

The repression of Neoplatonism was largely complete by the fourth century. Gnosticism flourished into the seventh century before it was finally and firmly put down by the growing power of the Orthodox church. From this point until the late fifteenth century, the history of magic in Europe is largely one of surviving folk customs, (such as the practices of the Sicilian hereditary witches or strega), paranoia, and periodic revivals of Gnostic Dualism in the form either of organized heresy, or ignorant diabolism. The focus of progress in western occult thought must shift to the south, to the Islamic realm, and to the Jewish Culture.


The Islamic Al-kimia is the next tradition. Alchemy is among the most poorly understood of the great Western traditions. Interestingly the name has a derivation to a similar Islamic term AAl-jabr@ (Algebra).

It is important to understand that Alchemy predates both the term, and the rise of Islam. Alchemy seems to have first been documented as a specific art in Egypt in the early third century B.C.E., and survived into the late second and early third centuries. By about C.E. 300, Zosimus of Panopolis had drawn the parallel between gold-making and spiritual refinement which was to become central to alchemy.

Islamic scholars did not have the reluctance of Christian scholars to explore classical antiquity, and the spread of Islam led to the translation of Greek works into Arabic. The Sufi mystic Gerber, who died in the early 9th century C.E. was one of the earliest Islamic experimenters with alchemy, and he incorporated Pythagorean and Neoplatonist elements into alchemical practice. Some europeans studied the Arabic works on alchemy, notably Arnald of Villanova, Roger Bacon, and Raymond Lull. It is notable that all three men had difficulties with the church and the law, and were suspected of witchcraft - the atmosphere of Europe was not overwhelmingly conducive to occult research or speculation. Not only alchemy was preserved, and enlarged upon, by the Arabs. The Arabic writer Abu Mashar of Baghdad (805-85) left a great body of astrological writing.

A principal concept of Alchemy was developed by the Hellenes, and refined by the Arabs. The AChemical Wedding@ goes back to Hermetic roots. Essentially, the idea is a wedding of the elements which symbolizes the spiritual joining of man with God. The entire idea of Aturning iron to gold@ is found here. First of all, it was quicksilver, not iron. Second of all, the alchemist=s search was to make a Aphilosopher=s stone@ which would transmute base metals to gold.

The process was symbolic. Through observance of long, careful rites and process, the initiate would make a stone which could turn iron (lesser metals) into gold (which was thought to be the purest form of metal) just as the heart and mind were purged of base thoughts and beliefs, and left pure. The process of transmutation was intended (and in fact usually practiced) as a transitory rite of purification, not as a means to quick financial gain. Most alchemists were theoreticians who studied philosophy rather than chemistry.

Cabbalism (Quabbalism)

The Cabbala is a body of Jewish mystic learning and teaching that dates back at least to the 12th century A.D., and probably goes back in rudimentary form much farther. Jewish faith is based on the "written law" the Torah (the Judaic scriptures, which are very roughly the same books as the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, and the "oral law" which is tradition handed down through generations. During the last four centuries B.C.E. traditionalists (primarily Sadducees) who adhered strictly to the written law were slowly marginalized by sects (primarily the Pharisees) who felt that oral law had equal weight. The tradition of adherence to the written law only was snuffed out in the C.E. 70 Jerusalem Rebellion. Modern Rabbitanial Judaism is descended from the oral-traditionists, who in subsequent centuries wrote down the Talmud as a repository of the oral-law. In the middle-ages, and later times, various scholars added Commentaries to the Talmud. At the same time, some scholars believed in a body of "secret" written law, set down in the Torah, and set out to study it. The "proto-cabbalistic" work Sefer Yetzirah was probably written down in the near east between 200-600 C.E.

Jewish mysticism dates back into the shadowy past, and can be traced back to works such as the Testament of Solomon, concerning commanding demons and angels which were recorded in Greek, possibly as early as the second or third century C.E. The names of demons are from Jewish, Hellenic Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, and Christian sources. Later versions have different lists. The Sword of Moses which reliably dates back to the tenth century resembles the magical papyri. Books purporting to be authored by Solomon are referred to in the eleventh century, and a Greek copy in the British Museum has been dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century.

The intellectual thrust of Jewish mysticism is Cabbala. The earliest "formal" work in this body is attributed to Isaac the Blind (c. 1160-1236 C.E.). As with earlier bodies of work pure Cabbalism is "High Magic," introducing the concept of the Sephiroth, and a series of "shells" which constitute overlaid "worlds" which range from the world of matter to the world of the divine. Jewish Cabbala centers around the concept that everything in the universe is built up from a series of symbols (the letters of the Hebrew) alphabet. The symbols have complex interrelations.

The Cabbalist pursued divine revelation by seeking secret knowledge through the Torah. A fundamental belief is that the Torah, reduced through Gematria (the application of numerology since Hebrew Letters can also act as numbers) yields the true name of God, of which the Tetragrammaton YHWH is merely a reflection.

Cabbala emanated from the East, but eventually reached its peak in Moorish Spain. Jewish writers enjoyed comparative freedom in Spain under the Moors, and produced a series of deeply philosophical works. Cabbala strays from mainstream Judaism as far as Alchemy or Hermeticism do from their inceptual faiths.

In form, the influence of Cabbala on Western Hermeticism occured early, and had a profound effect. Certainly the introduction into Christian Europe of the concept of controlling the Devil through magical summons, and the concept of Demons having secret names is heavily founded in Cabbala (though it may have been borrowed from a cross of Jewish folk tradition and Roman mythology). Formally, the connection between Hermeticism and Cabbala dates to Giovanni Pico, Count Mirandarola, a student and peer of Marsilio Ficino, who translated the Hermetica. Pico translated several Cabbalistic works, and began the "alchemical admixture" that would meld Alchemy, Cabbala, and Hellenic Hermeticism into the Western Hermetic tradition.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance began in Italy in the fourteenth century, and spread to the rest of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A key feature of the renaissance was the rediscovery of classical through, literature, and architecture.

The grandfather of the Western Hermetic tradition was Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), who lived in the household of Cosimo de Medici. Ficino as we have seen above translated the Hermetica. He also began the systematization of magic, focusing primarily on "defensible" practices linked with astrology, such as talismanic magic. It is clear from his work that he culled through the drek of European "low magic" - the volumes of witchcraft, mostly cribbed from cabbalistic sources, which had fueled the likes of Roger Bolingbroke and Gilles de Rais. The most famous of the medieval grimoires was Picatrix - a melange of late Hermetica and folklore, circulated in numerous badly transcribed editions.

What Ficino began found its culmination in the person of Giovanni Pico, Count Mirandola (1463-1494). Pico "created the synthesis, which has been the foundation of high magic ever since, by blending the Cabala with gnostic-hermetic-Neoplatonist tradition. Because Neoplatonism and Gnosticism had influenced the Cabbalists, the two systems were "genuinely complimentary."

In the next century, more than a dozen brilliant minds would refine the Hermetic tradition. Johann Reuchlin related Cabala to Pythagorean numerology, and suggested that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet could be used to control the angels, a concept which lay beneath the famous "Enochian" system of Dr. John Dee. Later in the century, Johann Trithemius, a Benedictine Abbot, contributed a body of astrological work.

Without doubt the most important contribution of the sixteenth century was the Occult Philosophy of Henrich Cornelius von Nettesheim, better known as Cornelius Agrippa (c. 1486-1535). It is a worthwhile diversion at this point to note that De Occulta Philosophia was a Latin work, and that it was customary for writers to use a Latin "pen name" when writing latin. Heinrich Cornelius' use of "Cornelius Agrippa" does not carry with it the same degree of pretension that one cannot help but attribute to "Eliphas Levi" (Alphonse Constant) and "MacGregor" Mathers.

Agrippa sets forth an entire system of Hermetic practice - talismanic magic, the summoning and control of angels and demons, numerology, divination, and "astral travel." This was not a new idea, and dates back to some medieval Christian and Cabbalist writings, but Agrippa certainly codified and popularized the concept, which would be so important to the Golden Dawn.

The early 16th century saw the pinnacle of Renaissance Hermeticism, and the growing intellectual movement that would spawn Rosicrucianism. Dr. John Dee (1527- 1608) was the consummate Renaissance mage. Along with Edward Kelley, he developed the system of Enochian magick, supposedly through skrying in a crystal. The details will never be firmly known. Edward Kelley is often portrayed as a near imbecile, "idiot-savant" medium for Dee. Certainly this is not the case - Kelley was literate and had some Latin, though he was not proficient in it. His poetry was not particularly good, but it was certainly average for the day, and he had a private library. The Enochian System is of extreme importance to the Golden Dawn, and we'll look at it separately in a later bluesheet.

A final voice among the Renaissance Magi was Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). Bruno was an ex-Dominican, who fell out with the Calvinists and the Lutherans as well. He sought the re-establishment of the Egyptian Religion, and was the first Hermeticist to break openly with Christianity. He directly attacked the power and basis of the Renaissance church, and in 1600 he was burned alive at Rome.

Witchcraft Persecutions

While it was unusual for a Hermetic Scholar to be burnt alive, other classes were being burned with swift certainty during this period. The sixteenth century saw the witchcraft craze. Beginning in the late fifteenth century, and continuing until about 1525, there were tremendous numbers of witchcraft persecutions and executions. The craze dwindled from 1525-1560, a stable and economically prosperous period. But the persecutions began again around 1560 and roared to a peak in the 1630s and 40s in Germany, closely matching the religious hatreds of the Thirty Years' War. Witchcraft persecution sputtered and failed on the Continent as it passed to England, where a milder hysteria raged during the late 1640s and for several decades thereafter. The last gasp of "witch hunting" was in the backwaters of the American Colonies, where a serious Witchcraft panic in Salem in 1692 marked the effective end of a two and a half century phenomenon. The Catholic Inquisition is often associated with witchcraft persecutions, but the Protestants of Switzerland and Germany hosted the most spectacular excesses of mass carnage, and Witchcraft persecution was a sport for Protestant and Catholic alike.

Traditionally we view the Witchcraft Persecutions as a product of the "Dark Ages," and associate them with the ignorance of the Middle Ages. Until recently, a psychopathological model was common for understanding the witch hunts, suggesting that "demonology overwhelmed psychiatry in the late Middle Ages, with the result that the mentally ill were executed by thousands as witches," (Schoeneman, 1996) however in recent years this has fallen to a better understanding of history.

First, we know that they persecutions were a product of the Renaissance, and ended with the first flickers of the Enlightenment. It has been suggested in twentieth century scholarly writing that Witchcraft Persecution was, in fact, a scientific reaction to the question of evil. Before the Renaissance, the concept of "cause and effect" was a dim notion in Europe. William of Ockham certainly embraced the concept, and in the centuries before the Renaissance, issues such as the material existence of the divine were threshed out.

The same general rise in literacy, education, and understanding that was the Renaissance deeply shook the foundations of the Medieval understanding of evil. The concept that evil "just happened" was no longer acceptable - God certainly permitted evil to try his creation. But Evil must have an "agent" a way to act in the world. The logical establishment for this necessity led to the formation of the notion of a vast Satanic conspiracy. But the concept itself was Renaissance not medieval. Medieval witchcraft trials focused on the use of evil magic for personal gain - the concept of a body of humans who acted in league with the devil in an organized fashion was not medieval - where it did occur it was seen largely to be an element of heresy - thus the Templars were linked with Cartharism.

The Witchcraft phenomenon is interesting to note in regards to how little actual effect it had on Hermetic tradition. Few Hermeticists were put on trial, and when they did they usually defended themselves within the law. A few were imprisoned, or forced to reconcile with the church. Certainly the penalties for practicing magic were greater during the Renaissance than they had ever been. Yet learned and literate men seldom found themselves on trial for their lives unless very real issues of poisoning or murder were at stake. And a vast body of magical literature emanated from the Renaissance.

Realistically, of course, there were no vast conspiracies of Satanic witches executed, because there were no vast conspiracies of Satanic witches. Certainly there must have been an upsurge in covens - the tremendous publicity of the rewards which various confessed witches obtained from the devil would have led the unscrupulous to form and maintain them, hoping themselves to avoid execution. But in all cases we can assume that the vast majority of those burned knew nothing of magic.

Still, there can be little doubt that the focus of interest that the trials brought into the "invisible world" must have spurred an intellectual interest evinced by the writings of Cornelius Agrippa and the like.

Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Enlightenment led to the formation of various Ainternationalist@ groups in Europe. These groups supported the basic mission of the enlightenment, which was the spread of logical and scientific knowledge of the universe, and the defeat of the Roman Catholic Church=s perceived chokehold on learning.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries continental universities were in Church controlled, and were, practically, religious institutions. Copernicus= case is an excellent example of how Ecclesiastical Courts, rather than scientfic study, established scientific reality. In defense it should be noted that Copernicus was wrong: planets do not orbit in circles, and that given the elliptical orbits of the planets, the existing theory of epicycles explained the observable motions of the planets better than Copernicus theory of a sun-centered solar system.

The Protestant countries became centers of Enlightenment learning, including Copernican theory. Most Copernican and Ptolemaic astronomers were also Astrologers, and Astrology was a Anoble art@ and a University subject. A contemporary of John Dee, Simon Forman was a practitioner of "low magic" in London. He was in constant trouble with the Royal College of Physicians - because they questioned whether his knowledge of Astrology was adequate. The world was discovering that there was an explanation, and a pattern for many things which had never been questioned. Needless to say, for every great discovery, there were a thousand dead ends.

This was the atmosphere - the century of transition from Renaissance to Enlightenment, which gave birth to Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry. Rosicrucianism was founded at Cassel in 1611-1614 based on a manuscript called the "Fama Fraternitatis@ probably made up by Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654). The influence of these two linked movements was to be immense. Descartes and Leibnitz would be influenced by Rosicrucianism, and the founding fathers of America were Freemasons nearly to the man.

Freemasonry apparently grew out of the RC (R.C. for Rosy Cross, or Rosicrucian) myth. The Freemasons simplified the Rosicrucian myth, and adopted various legends of ancient secret knowledge handed down from Hiram, who was supposed to have been the master architect of the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem. This secret knowledge, they claimed, had been handed down generation to generation through guilds of Afree masons.@

While medieval Europe did have guilds of Afree masons,@ and while they did have craft secrets, it is unlikely they were handed down from the time of Solomon around 1000 B.C.E., and it is still less likely that they contained sociological and metaphysical commentary.

Michael Maier (1566-1622) - a German Lutheran doctor, and Robert Fludd (1574-1637) who wrote works merging cabbala and alchemy both wrote eloquently of the Rosicrucian secrets, and firmly melded the Rosicrucian legend with the history of Western Hermeticism. To believers - down to the time of the Golden Dawn, the history of Rosicrucianism, and the mystery of Christian Rosenkruetz were the history of Hermeticism. As a symbol for the transmission of classical knowledge to the modern world, they endure to the present day.

Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) was another influential force in Hermetic history. A true "renaissance man" he was a founder of the Royal Society, an authority on the history of the Order of the Garter, an alchmist, astronomer, and botanist. He was initiated as a Freemason in 1646 in London.

Enlightenment Europe

Not surprisingly, Freemason lodges, which attempted to recruit men of science and intelligence, also accumulated men of wealth and power. At this time, science was largely a hobby, requiring either a rich and noble patron, a life of poverty, or independent wealth. Most scientists were also "occultists" - science was the unknown.

One often hears the story of Issac Newton (1642-1727) studying alchemy presented as a sort of Astrange contradiction.@ ADid you know that Issac Newton, the mathematician who invented modern math, and discovered the law of gravitation was also a superstitious alchemist?@ This is a twisted point of view brought about by applying a twentieth century perspective to a non-twentieth century culture. In the seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries Astrology and Alchemy were no different from other sciences. But Hermeticism and magic were diverging. Emmanual Swedenborg (1688-1772), who explored the occult in spirit visions would be a major influence on 19th century occultism - but his work was more mystical and philosophical than scientific.

Newton=s discoveries about math and gravity grew out of his pursuit of Alchemy. Alchemy was, at the time the state of the art in theoretical sciences. That Newton pursued it is no stranger than that the fathers of applied Ascientific@ psychology, Freud and Jung, followed and studied the generation of Atheoretical@ or Asocial@ psychologists, such as Kant and Neitzsche.

The Masonic ideal was an Aold boys network@ of learned men whose common interests exceeded petty nationalism and boundaries. This was especially attractive in Germany, divided into an endless array of petty principalities, with virtually no central government.

As much as the Hermetic ideal and Rosicrucian internationalism had helped usher in the Enlightenment, ultimately they were its victims. Hermetic philosophy fell away first. The rise of a doctrine of scientific rationalism during the Enlightenment moved philosophy to focus on human motivations. Little room was left except in the Catholic world for the relation between man and the infinite. The18th century was an era of humanism and pragmatism. Classical ideas would influence the philosophy of the day, but esotericism had become all but irrelevant by the early 19th century. Freemasonry was Rosicrucianism devoid of esoteric teaching.

The "Sturm und Dang" (Storm and Stress) literary movement spurred by Goethe in the late 18th century led to a revival of Romanticism which we have already referred to in Bluesheet II. It also led to a general revivial of interest in Rosicrucianism.

Even as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry gained in popularity, they were losing their magical and Hermetic associations. By no means were the classical antecedents of Freemasonry forgotten, the way they are by the typical small town "Mason's Lodge" of the current day, however. Mozart was a mason, and The Magic Flute is a masonic work, based on the mysteries of Isis and Osiris.

A historically important order, the Golden and Rosy Cross, was founded in Germany around 1750 (although of course, claiming greater antiquity - it is an essential element of Rosicrucian lodges to trace their origin to the lodge of the Fama Fraternitis). The grade order of the Golden and Rosy Cross would be adopted by the English S.R.I.A. a century later - and eventually by the Golden Dawn.

The zenith of power of Freemasonry occured during the last two decades of the 18th century. The great Hapsburg Emperor Franz-Josef was a freemason. And the Freemasons for the first time got their own country. An amazing majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were Freemasons, and the U.S. Constitution is without question an essentially Masonic document. It reflects the Egalitarian ideals of Freemasonry. Every member of the Virginia delegation to the Philadelphia convention of 1787, which largely drafted the Constitution, was a Freemason. The Eye and Pyramid of the U.S. Great Seal is a Masonic symbol. It has also been linked to the Barvarian Illuminati.

For the most part, however, we see a decline in the quality and caliber of individual associated with Hermetic thought throughout the 18th century. At the beginning of the century brilliant men like Newton would embrace alchemy. By the end of the century the luminaries of Hermeticism were pretenders and charlatans, such as Giovanni Casanova (1725-98), Giuseppe Balsamo "Count Cagliostro" (1743-1795) and the Comte St-Germain (who flourished from about 1770 until the early 1800s, but was born and died in obscurity).

Somewhat more legitimate Hermeticists would include Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who founded a Rosicrucian Order, Francis Barett an English Magus who published a complete system of magic, and taught magic in London at a school that was probably the inspiration for the Golden Dawn, and Antoine Court de Gebelin (1725-84), a Protestant Pastor and Mason who wrote the first major book on the Tarot, in which he gave formal birth to the theory of its Egyptian origin - a fact which was known to be incorrect by the heyday of the Golden Dawn, but which exercised a profound influence on 18th century Occultism.

Freemasonry in the Industrial Era

The dawn of the Industrial age was a death-knell for Freemasonry. One tremendous change was that the educated class doing scientific work was no longer predominantly made up of nobleman or gentleman hobbyists. As soon as Science had real applications, the old Arenaissance man@ began to give way to Engineers, Architects, and other practical scientists. The change was already well underway by the time Victoria came to the throne. The very culture that Freemasonry had helped to build no longer needed it.

Religious toleration also set in. The bitter rivalry between Freemason and Catholic seemed petty and prosaic in the 19th century, whereas it had been the fuel that moved nations to war only a little more than a century earlier.

Rising philosophical awareness on the part of the average man did as much as anything to kill off the elaborate and structured Freemason rites of the 18th Century. The pure philosophy of Emerson and Thoreau drew off existential concepts first explored by occultists, however the modern rationalist philosophical movement had little use for the complex rites of a century earlier. Occult traditions survive however. The mildly esoteric themes of Byron and Shelly at once served to keep the romance of Occult belief alive, while relegating it to a past day. A quick read of Frankenstein shows how occult teachings stood at the beginning of the 19th century. Mary Shelley is well aware of scientific-occultism, as is her student, Dr. Frankenstein.

For the next ninety years from 1780-1880, Freemasonry slowly declined. By the late 19th century, it meant little more than it does today - the Masonic Lodge was a cigar lounge for the local middle class, where they could have pretensions to some sort of nobility and importance, while exchanging political favors. There were a few innovations which breathed periodic life into the movement, but altogether, Freemasonry was in a slow decline as it lost its relevance to modern life amidst the rise of Victorian capitalist imperialism. Intellectuals with interests in the political ideal of internationalism found Lenin and Marx to be more meaningful subject matter. By the 1880s esoteric Rosicrucianism was represented almost exclusively by the S.R.I.A. the common organization of which the Golden Dawn founders were members. It was a desire to magnify and refound the Rosicrucian tradition that led to the foundation of the Golden Dawn in 1888.

The Victorian Age

The supremely liberal, prolterian and religious wave of hysteria that gripped England in 1815 eventually spread to America, and before it was over the ancien regime had been erased forever by a wave of populism. Thomas Jefferson=s noble farmer was replaced with men who would before the turn of the century run William Jennings Bryan for U.S. President.

The populist rise - which was really the result of the first massive swelling of the until then very small ranks of the middle class with new entrants, began to abate by the 1850's. Esoteric themes and novels again become popular. But with a generation lapsed, most of the old orders were unlikely to revive of their own accord. There were certainly mystics and Masons during the mid nineteenth century, but their work is mostly either historical, or unoriginal. There are exceptions of course. The Swedenborgian movement maintained some momentum, and strange pseudo-esoteric religions were a craze in America - Mormonism being a prime example.

Three movements set the stage during the 19th century for the emergence of the Golden Dawn in its last decade. Mainline Hermetic/Rosicrucian practice, Spiritualism, and Theosophy.

The Spiritualists

The mid 19th Century belonged to the Spiritualists. While the Spiritualist movement is seen as primarily having to do with Seances and Ghosts, the fact is that it had a great deal more Theological significance.

The premise of contact with the dead was a direct rocket into the conventional Christian theology of Aheaven and hell.@ The dead, we were told by spiritualists, did not go to hell, or heaven, but to a sort of pleasant place of light. The concept was not new, but it had never been received by a mass Christian audience before. It was born of the rising influence of Eastern thought, and out of classical influence. The change to our way of thinking was profound. Up until this point the vision of Hell as a place of physical fire, and Heaven as a city with streets of gold had prevailed. Certainly scholars were capable of thinking of Heaven in more advanced ways. But the idea of a non-coporeal, existential heaven is a distinctly intellectual concept, and Spiritualism first brought it to a mass-market.

The Spiritualist phenomenon had a very definite beginning. Margaret Fox (1834-1893) and Kate Fox (1836-1892) claimed in 1848 that they could communicate with the dead through "rapping" noises. Historically it has been fairly well established that the noises were produced by one or both of the girl's toe-joints, and that they were probably frauds. Evidence along these lines came out as early as 1850, but did nothing to slow the half-century progress of the movement.

Spiritualism rose in the U.S. in the 1840's and 50's, largely in the excitement of the "knocking". The aftermath of the Civil War made the new religion very attractive, but it also caused a tremendous upswing in conventional church attendance, and conventional churches generally did not care very much for the Spritiualists. After her husband's death Mary Todd Lincoln turned to Spiritualism - the legitimizing and popularizing effect can be acquainted to that which would have occurred had Jackie Onassis Kennedy turned to a new religion after her husband's death.

The Spiritualist movement contained a very large number of the things that we today would call ANew Age@ religion. In fact the ANew Age@ revival of the 80's was, absolutely without question, a revival of 19th century Spiritualism, down to the fine details. The methodology was somewhat more sophisticated.

The real weakness of Spiritualism is that it was largely based on fraud. The ideals were sound, but the actual results of seances called for willing suspension of disbelief. By definition a good spiritualist was a good showman. No doubt even legitimate mediums produced Aspecial effects,@ in order not to be outdone by the next Spiritualist Church over. Margaret Fox confessed to the New York World newspaper on October 21, 1888 that the original seances were a sham.

After a series of revelations of Fraud, the Spiritualist craze began to dwindle in the 70s, and the Spiritualists were vanishing by the 80s. Despite a brief resurgance in the years before and after the First World War, Spiritualism ceased to be a driving force in Esotericism. It would retain some importance until the 1920s, occasionally attracting prominent writers such as William T. Stead. Probably the final death blow was when Conan Doyle, who had given it some credibility in The History of Spiritualism was made a laughing-stock by the faked "Cottingley Fairy Photographs." A few Spritualist Churches remain today, mostly in the UK.

The Theosophists

By the 1870's the concept of communication with the beyond was well impressed in the minds of the English.

In 1881, A.P. Sinnet published an account of the Eastern travels of Helena Blatavasky. By the time Blatavasky came to London in 1884, she was already a major celebrity, and the head of an order called AThe Theosophical Society," founded in New York in 1875

Blatavasky is an interesting character. Certainly she was somewhat charlatanish, particularly in her claim of support by a set of ASecret Chiefs.@ The idea of invisible or hidden chiefs who run mystic and secular affairs was introduced in the German lodges in the 1780s, and is intrinsic to the Masonic belief system. The popularity of X-Files indicates it has not entirely gone out of vogue today.

However, Blatavasky had genuinely lived in the East, and had become a real authority on Indian Mysticism. Thus the West had its first real taste of non-deity oriented teachings of the East. The principles of Yoga first became accessible to the average westerner through the Theosophists. The Indian concept of Yogis and Aascended masters@ fit well with the ASecret Chief@ concept and gave it a new life.

Anna Kingsford had been elected President of the English Theosophical Society, an insignificant entity, in 1883. She was independently wealthy, the daughter of a shipping line owner, and she went to Paris to study medicine, where despite opposition she gained a medical degree. In 1885 she founded the Hermetic Society, of which both Westcott and Mathers were members. She died in 1888, a week before the Golden Dawn Charter was signed - many members of her organization gravitated to the Golden Dawn.

Blavatsky maintained a cordial but cool relationship with the G.D., which was always much smaller than the Theosophical Society. On 9, October 1888 she founded the "Esoteric Section" of the Theosophical society, though membership was restricted to those close to her. Blavatsky originally circulated a rule against membership in any other occult order, but at the urging of Rev. Ayton and some others rescinded it, with the result that Westcott, and a fair number of other G.D. members joined. The Esoteric section of the Theosophical Society focused on more western tradition, but in this area the larger group was never a serious rival to the Golden Dawn.

Mainline Hermeticism

The main thrust of Hermetic learning in the 19th century was symbolized in the person of Alphonse Constant "Eliphas Levi." He wrote prolifically, publishing Le Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1856. His work shows a strong gothic influence, and he influenced the Victorian novelist Bulwer-Lytton who wrote The Last Days of Pompeii, and the occult-masonic thriller Zanoni (1842). This book would lead the generation of the Golden Dawn to esotericism in the way that many of the modern generation have been led by the novels of fantasy writers such as Katherine Kurtz.

In England the pinnacle of 19th century Rosicrucianism was the fringe masonic group Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) It was founded in 1866 with Bulwer Lytton as honorary patron. Important members included Frederick Hockley (1809-85). Hockley collected esoteric writing, and engaged in practical experimentation. He is reliably known to have been taught by a pupil of Francis Barett, and was a teacher of Kenneth MacKenzie (1833-86), who authored the Royal Masonic Cyclopedia. The spiritualist leader Rev. William Stainton Moses (1839-92) was a member of the SRIA

The S.R.I.A. took its system of grades from the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross, and would pass that system of grades along to the Golden Dawn. In many ways, the S.R.I.A. was the direct ancestor to the Golden Dawn - the G.D. would even meet at Mark's Masons Hall, the meeting place of the S.R.I.A.


Whatever the provenance of the cipher manuscripts, it is no coincidence that the Golden Dawn came into being in 1888. The death of Hockley and MacKenzie left a vacuum in terms of occult leadership and scholarship, as did the death of Anna Kingsford.

The primary thrust of the Golden Dawn was Western Hermeticism. We have seen how the elements of Hermeticism came together. Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism merging in the second and third century, Cabala - itself influenced by Neo-Platonism, and alchemy, merging in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. By the 1880, the final additions to what we recognize as Western Magic are complete - the Tarot, Astrology, and Enochian ritual.

Yet before the Golden Dawn, attempts to draw the mass of Western tradition together into a coherent system had been flawed, or incomplete. Barett and Constant had both attempted a system that unified western tradition. But it would be the Golden Dawn which produced a balanced and harmonious system which included all the disparate elements of Western Esotericism.

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (5)

IV - Offline

(not public)

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (6)

V - What Had Gone Before

— A Detailed History of the Golden Dawn —

Previously, we discussed the background of Western Hermeticism. This Bluesheet focuses on the History of the Golden Dawn itself - its roots in the early 19th century, and the years from 1888 - 1900. This is presented first as a chronology, then as a series of short articles on the major issues and scandals of the Organization. Where there is some uncertainty, please remember that sources sometimes conflict - I have generally used the best source for a given event, even if it conflicted with a similar citation. For details on the S.R.I.A. or Theosophical Society, please refer to Bluesheet III, "Occult Influences on the Golden Dawn - The History of Western Hermetic Thought".

Mottoes: where individuals had two mottoes, I have used the most common. In most cases his is the "later" motto, or the Second Order motto (most G.D. members did not take new mottoes on becoming members of the Second Order). In the case of the Chiefs, I have used their "lower" motto in preference to their "higher" i.e. for Mathers I have used "`S Rioghail Mo Dhream - S.R.M.D." in preference to "Deo Duce Comite Ferro - D.D.C.F."

I - Before the G.D.

1801– Francis Barrett advertises for students in London in the pages of his textbook on Ceremonial Magic, The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer. Historically he operates a school which may have been related to the one operated by Johannes Falk around the same time

1810- Johann F. Falk is supposed to have succeeded to the directorate of a secret Society of Students of the Kabbalah – this is loosely identified with the School established by Francis Barrett around 1816. Frederick Hockley, who was a member of the S.R.I.A., was taught by a pupil of Francis Barrett

1824– Frederick Hockley experiments with crystal gazing, begins career in esotericism

1828- Francis George Irwin born

1840 Chuch of the Carmel- an esoteric Rosicrucian Order, founded in France

1842- Lord Bulwer-Lytton publishes Zanoni

1850- Lord Bulwer Lytton is supposed to have been admitted to a Lodge at Frankfurt-an-Main

1854- Eliphas Levi visits London (1854 and 1861)

1861- Eliphas Levi visits London (1854 and 1861)

1861- Kenneth MacKenzie visited Eliphas Levi in Paris

1864- Frederick Hockley joins British Masonic Lodge No. 8

1865-66- Robet Wentworth Little found some old Rosicrucian Papers and founded the S.R.I.A. - Westcott implies he collaborated with Kenneth R. H. MacKenzie. John Hervey, the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England (the standard "non-esoteric" or Orthodox Masonic Temple in the U.K.) was Kenneth MacKenzie’s uncle

1867- S.R.I.A. – Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia – founded by Robert Wentworth Little (1840-78). Westcott later claimed that Kenneth MacKenzie provided Little with a permission from Count Apponyi in Austria, from whom MacKenzie is supposed to have received “Rosicrucian Initiation”

1870- Kenneth MacKenzie joins a conventional English Masonic Lodge, Oak Lodge, No. 190

1872- Kenneth MacKenzie is made an Honorary member of S.R.I.A.

1872- Royal Oriental Order of Sikha (Apex) and the Sat B’hai, supposedly imported from India. The order admits women. It is controlled by Jonathan Yarker, who was known for spawning “bogus” – or at least very irregular - Masonic Orders.

1873, 24 April- Eliphas Levi is made an honorary member of S.R.I.A.

1874- Kenneth MacKenzie is made Assistant Secretary of the S.R.I.A

1875- Frederick Holland is elected to the Metropolitan College of the S.R.I.A. and Kenneth MacKenzie resigns from the S.R.I.A.

1875- Madame Helena P. Blatavsky and Colonel H. S. Olcott form Theosophical Society in New York

1877- Blatavsky publishes Isis Unveiled

1878- Robert Wentworth Little dies. Dr. W. R. Woodman succeeds him as Supreme Magus of the S.R.I.A.

1880- Dr. William Wynn Westcott joins the S.R.I.A.

1881- The Occult World published by A.P. Sinnett is popular in England, and introduces the concept of Theosophy which is already popular in America.

1883- An elite esoteric masonic organization called The Society of Eight, is founded by Kenneth MacKenzie. Notables such as Francis George Irwin and Frederick Holland were members. It is unclear whether Hockley was a member. In a note to F.G. Irwin, MacKenzie says that Stainton Moses (a noted Spiritist) and William Wynn Westcott were not to be admitted. It is unclear whether Westcott was eventually invited to join, or even whether the organization ever really came into existence.

1883- Anna Kingsford President of London Lodge of the Theosophical Society - at this time a very small and insignificant organization.

1884- the Theosophical Society is embarrassed by alleged trickery uncovered at Adyar during investigation by Richard Hodgson of the Society for Psychical Research

1884- Anna Kingsford resigns, forms Hermetic Society. Westcott and Mathers both lecture there.

1884- A Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees is formed in England, which to coordinate, to some extent, the various "side degrees" of Masonry including the S.R.I.A. Submission was voluntary and virtually none of these organizations actually applied to the Grand Council. The Grand Council did not extend its authority to firmly embrace these "side degrees" until 1902, by which time there was little interest in them.

1884- The Rosicrucian/Christian Martinist Order in France, which has existed irregularly since the turn of the century is given a constitution and formally organized along modern lines.

1885 10 November- Frederick Hockley dies

1886, 3 July - Kenneth MacKenzie dies. Swedenborgian Rite- Westcott active became Grand Secretary after Kenneth MacKenzie’s death in 1886. Collected his loose papers, probably including the cipher manuscripts.

1887, 23 December- A.F.A.Woodford dies

1888- Stanislas de Guita forms Rose+Cross in France

1888- February 2, Anna Kingsford dies from chronic lung disease

II - Foundation


1 March- G.D. Isis-Urania Temple No. 3 (see "the cipher manuscript" for discussion of Temples No. 1 and 2) issued a warrant. First initiate was Mina Bergson (Vestigia nulla retrorsum - “Vestigia”) . She was later Moina Mathers.

12 February- Dr. William Wynn Westcott (Sapere Aude - S.A. - originally Non Omnis Moriar), Dr. William Robert Woodman (Magna es Veritas - M.V.), and Samuel Liddell Mathers (‘S Rioghail Mo Dhream - S.R.M.D.) signed the Order of G.D. pledge.

October- Helena P. Blavatsky launches the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. Membership in other Hermetic organizations is forbidden. Rev. William Alexander Ayton (Virtue orta, occidunt rarius - V.O.O.R.) initially writes to some of his Yorkshire colleagues, and they launch a protest over Blavatsky’s refusal to allow membership in other organizations. The requirement is dropped, though approval must be had from Annie Besant.

October- Isabelle de Steiger (Alta Pero - A.P.) enters the G.D.

8 October- G.D. Temple No. 4 Osiris at Weston Super-Mare founded by Benjamin Cox (Crux dat salutem - C.D.S.), a freemason, and associate of Westcott’s from the days when he was a pharmacist. The Osiris temple never had more than 12 members, went into decline within two years, and ceased to exist in 1895 after Benjamin Cox died.

11 October- Westcott (S.A.) makes a reference to the G.D. at a meeting of the Metropolitan College of the S.R.I.A. in which he refers to Woodford as a member.

19 October- G.D. Temple No. 5, Horus, at Bradford, chartered by T.H. Pattinson ( Vota vita mea - V.V.M.) a watchmaker at Baildon in Yorkshire.


February- 60 members joined Temple No. 3, Isis-Urania before this date. Isis-Urania met at Mark Masons’ Hall

9 February- First public reference to the G.D. appeared in Notes and Queries, in the Theosophical Society Periodical Lucifer. The reference was in response to a letter asking about a "School of Kabbalah" - It can be assumed that the letter was written by Westcott (S.A.), probably in response to a query he placed himself.

May- Dr. Edward Berridge (Resurgam) joins the G.D.

10 September- Moina Mathers (Vestigia) listed as 5=6, a full year before any regular Second Order initiations will be performed.


In France, the Martinist Order organizes a Supreme Council of 12 members with Papus (Gerard Encausse) as President and Grand Master. Stanislas de Guaïta and Joseph Peledan are also Council members.

January- Annie Horniman (Fortiter et Rectitude - F.E.R.) joins the G.D.

7 March- William Butler Yeats (Daemon Est Deus Inversus - Demon) joins G.D.

July- Florence Emery (later Florence Farr, after she divorced Edward Emery) (Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data - S.S.D.D.) joins G.D.

August- J.W. Brodie-Innes (Sub Spe) joins the G.D. in London.

September- Percy Bullock (Levavi Oculos - L.O.) joins G.D.

III - The Second Order


January- Arthur Edward Waite “Sacrementum Regis - S.R.” joins the G.D.

20 February- Dr. Berridge (Resurgam) 5=6

March- Mrs. Helen Rand (Vigilate) joins the G.D.

30 July- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) visits Paris in the summer. In a letter he states “I have been in much communication with Frater Lux E Tenebris (L.E.T.).” At the time this was widely rumored to be a Dr. Thiesen of Lieges Belgium. Mathers circulated other talk about contact with higher adepts, and presented the G.D. with a new set of rituals for a “Second Order,” specifically called the Order of the Rosae Rubiae et Aurae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.).

2 August- Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) 5=6

17 December- first Second Order Initiation for Annie Horniman (Fortiter et Recte - F.E.R). Horniman was going abroad, so her initiation was rushed. At this time, a distinction had to be made between those of “Nominal 5=6” grade who had completed the examinations and those who have formally entered the Second Order. The Second order vault was built at Thavies Inn, off Holborn Circus in rooms owned by the Sanitary Wood Wool Company, in which Westcott (S.A.) had an interest.

In introducing the Second Order, which he controlled, Mathers (S.R.M.D) effectively took over the organization from Westcott (S.A.) at this point. Mathers was sole Chief within the Second Order. Westcott was simply Chief Adept in Anglia. During 1892 there were seven Adept Assemblies and one Adept Council

During 1892, Miss Theresa Jane O’Connell (Cial agus neart - C.A.N.) was expelled. She had fallen out with Mina Mathers (Vestigia)

18 March- Westcott (S.A.) was unable to get a second room on the premises at Thavies Inn - the vault was too small, and in August the Second order moved to Clipstone Street.

22 March- Miss Pamela Carden (later Mrs. Pamela Bullock) (Shemebar) joins the G.D.

June- First Corpus Christi Ceremony. The most important Adept Assembly was the annual one held early in June, as near as possible to Corpus Christi. Consecration Ceremony of the Vault of the Adepts - Corpus Christi ceremony - was to be used for any new Vault and for each day of Corpus Christi. “The Chief Adept, clothed in a black robe of mourning and with the “chain of humility” hung round his neck, was bound to the Cross of Suffering and pledged himself ‘for the due performance and fulfillment of the respective clauses of the Oath taken by each member on the Cross of Suffering at his admission to the Grade of Adeptus Minor.’” Howe says that Mathers (S.R.M.D.) found he consequences of taking it so unpleasant that he tried to foist it on to Westcott (S.A.), who did it for one year and said he would never do it again. Peck did it at Edinburgh.

12 July- Helen Rand (Vigilate) 5=6

August- Factionalism at Horus in Bradford, between Rosicrucians and Theosophists. Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) was sent as an “envoy” to check out the situation. According to Horniman, Oliver Firth (Volo) and F.D. Harrison (Quanti est Sapere - Q.E.S.), both Theosophists, were making trouble, by acting disrespectfully about and during the rituals.

10 August- Decision made to move the Second Order Vault to Clipstone Street. 24-25 Clipstone St. was a dingy little thoroughfare running east from the middle of Great Portland St. “dirty, noisy, smelly and immoral, and many objected to it.” 10s. weekly for two rooms. According to historian Ellic Howe, the Second Order’s neighbors were “a hairdresser, dairyman, confectioner, two sculptors, cabinet-makers, french polishers a piano tuner, and the offices of the German Waiters’ Society.” The vault was illuminated by a battery powered electric lamp. There was a log in the Second Order Vault, in which anyone coming or going wrote down the date, time, and their business

14 August (Sunday) - Percy Bullock (Levavi Oculos - L.O.) was busy organizing the move from Thavies Inn during the week of the 14th-21st.

6 September -Mathers (S.R.M.D.) and Moina (Vestigia) were back in London on 6 September, remained until 20 October. This was at least partially for the Equinox Ceremony

20 September- W.A. Ayton (V.O.O.R.) was inducted into the Second Order. His wife, a nominal 5=6 was allowed to observe. This is the only known instance of a nominal 5=6 being allowed to observe.

October- Westcott (S.A.) visited two months later, and temporarily took control as Imperator of the Horus Temple, after the Imperator temporarily resigned, to allow him to fix the problems there.

November- Dr. Henry Pullen Burry (Anima Pura Sit - A.P.S.) joins the G.D.

14 December- Apparently, the ladies of the Second Order were using the Vault (or rather the Clipstone street rooms) as a social place in the afternoon. Westcott (S.A.) promgulated a rule which apparently limited “lady students” access, and Florence Farr (Sapentia Sapienti dono data - S.S.D.D.) complained about it. Apparently the new rule was ignored.


In this year, the Portal grade first used - this was a "transition" ritual between nominal 5=6 and the Second Order Initiation. Everyone who became a full 5=6 in 1893 went through the portal grade first, but there was not yet a rule that 9 months must pass, and the portal grade was usually followed by the 5=6 within a week or so.

During 1893 There were eight Adept Assemblies and four Adept Council meetings

January- Yeats (Demon) takes 5=6

February- Mrs. J.W. Brodie-Innes (Sub Hoc Signo Vinces - S.H.S.V.) joins the G.D.

March- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) makes a trip to try and fix problems with Horus Temple in Bradford. The Bradfordians were still talking to Oliver Firth (Volo), and F.D. Harrison (Q.E.S.) Harrison later rose to a significant position within Annie Besant’s Universal Co-Masonry, after the collapse of the Theosophy Society.

6 April- J.W. Brodie-Innes (Sub spe) 5=6

20 June- Pamela Carden (later Pamela Bullock) (Shemebar) 5=6

26 July- F. G. Irwin, of the S.R.I.A. dies.

26 September, (Tuesday)- This was the last 5=6 admission until March 1894. At this point there were 36 full 5=6 members of the Second Order.

19 October- the Ananda Lodge of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society was formed. Westcott (S.A.) was President, Percy Bullock (L.O.) the honorary secretary and F.L. Gardner - not yet a Golden Dawn member, was also an officer. Gardner may have met Westcott at this time.

Autumn- By this time the 5=6 Adeptus Minor grade in the Second Order was divided into two sub-grades Zelator Adeptus Minor (Z.A.M) and Theoricus Adeptus Minor (Th.A.M.) There was discussion and some work on a 5=6 Practicus Adeptus Minor, but this was probably never worked before the Examination system beginning to founder in 1897. G.D. Second Order members begin to take various parts of the series of eight examinations for the senior 5=6 Grade of Th.A.M in autumn of 1893. There were no regular grades beyond 5=6, though Mathers (S.R.M.D.) and Moina (Vestigia) as well as Westcott were represented to be 7=4 at various times.


Annie Horniman secretly provided money that enabled Florence Farr to lease the Avenue Theatre, where she staged Yeats’ one act play The Land of Heart’s Desire as a curtain raiser for Dr. John Todhunter’s The Comedy of Sighs. The latter was soon withdrawn and was replaced by G.B. Shaw’s Arms and the Man.

By 1894, a G.D. rule enforced a delay in allowing Theosophical Society Esoteric Section members to join the G.D., because Annie Besant would approve them, then the "Master" (a nonhuman entity) of the Esoteric Section would tell them to resign. This appears to have been a politically correct way for the Esoteric Section to interfere with the G.D., without forcing Besant to take direct responsibility.

During 1894 the Amoun-Ra Temple No. 6 was chartered at Edinburgh, under the leadership of J.W. Brodie-Innes (Sub spe). William Peck later incinerated the papers of the Temple in a panic in 1901, and many of the records are lost.

January 6- Ahathoor Temple No. 7 at Paris was consecrated by Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) at 1 Avenue Duquesne

February- Allan Benett - (Iehi Aour) joins the G.D.

May 5- Charles Rosher (Aequo Animo - A.A.) enters the G.D.

12 March - February- Horus Temple Bradford petitioned for direct control by Mathers to keep any “petticoat government” by Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) from affecting them. This was a direct result of Gardner showing them the letter Florence Farr had sent him. “Common Sense and good fellowship” was held to be more important at Horus than G.D. Grades

Dr. Robert W. Felkin (Finem Respice - Respice) joins the G.D.

14 March- Henry Pullen Burry (A.P.S.) takes 5=6

20 March- Grederick Leigh Gardner (De Profundis Ad Lucem - D.P.A.L.) joins the G.D.

September- A. E. Waite (who was not yet a G.D. member) publishes an esoteric periodical called The Unknown World. In an article in September Dr. Edmund William Berridge (Resurgam) makes his infamous “Death of a Syncope” comment, in which he implies that betrayal of the Second Order of the G.D. might result in death, with a coroner's verdict of death of heart failure. Because Westcott is widely known to be a coroner, this can be read to suggest masonic complicity in murder, as well as the "irresistable current of hostile will" promised in the Neophyte Initation.

December- Mrs. J.W. Brodie-Innes (S.H.S.V.) 5=6


22 March- Allan Benett (Iehi Aour) 5=6

23 March- Gerard Encausse - the French mystic “Papus” - is given an honorary initiation into Ahathoor Temple in Paris. He later resigns to head the Martinist Order, a Rosicrucian Lodge in France.

12 July-George Cecil Jones (Volo Noscere - Volo) joins G.D.

October- Frederick Leigh Gardner (De Profundis ad Lucem - D.P.A.L.) (not to be confused with Gerald Gardner, the 20th century esotericist who founded Gardnerian Wicca) visited Mathers (S.R.M.D) in Paris Mrs. Helen Mary Rand (Vigilate) was saying there at the time.

November- Ananda Lodge of the E.S. of the T.S. is closed down

December- Benjamin Cox (C.D.S.), Imperator of Osiris Temple at Weston-Super-Mare dies. The Temple is defunct. Cox was working on a 7=4 ritual when he died

IV. First Rebellion and Manifesto


By 1896, the Golden Dawn has about 300 members. Of these about 100 are in the Second Circle, and about 60 are active. The only 7=4 degrees were conferred on the Mathers' (S.R.M.D. and Vestigia) by the Secret Chiefs) - all Second Circle members are 5=6. A growing number are Theoricus Adeptus Minor (Th.A.M.), and in 1896 "the Theorici" form the basis for a near rebellion against Mathers' rule of the Second Order.

January- Mathers (S.R.M.D) writes a stern letter reproving Annie Hornimanm (F.E.R.). It is unclear precisely what prompted this, however it is clear that in late December Horniman wrote a critical letter to Mathers. The issues are Dr. Berridge's (Resurgam) interest in the teachings of Thomas Lake Harris, which include sexual techniques and polyfidelity, and possibly statements about sexual activity on the elemental plane made by or attributed to Mathers (S.R.M.D.).

January- Florence Farr (Sapienta Sapienti dono data - S.S.D.D.) reports that she has been contacted by the "Egyptian Adept," an ancient Egyptian Priest or Priestess who has made contact through a fragment of a mummy case. Through correspondence with Mathers' (S.R.M.D.) Farr establishes to his and her satisfaction that this adept is in fact a genuine 8=3. She is allowed to begin a small "work group" to contact and work with the Adept. This is the core of what will later become her "Sphere group."

2 January- Draft of a letter from Mrs. Helen Rand (Vigilate) and Westcott (S.R.M.D.), to Mathers, defending the action of some Senior Theorici who had opposed Dr. Berridge (Resurgam). The bone of contention seems to have been his sexual theories, and improper conduct toward Mrs. Rand.

8 January- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) writes to Annie Horniman (F.E.R.), in a letter that can be described as "somewhat condescending." Mathers mentions Mrs. A. J. Carden, (Amore), for whom for whatever reason he "recommended to elemental marriage" because of the “extreme danger of invoking an incubus instead of a fay, through want of self control.” The details are unclear, however it makes it clear that despite his own celibate relationship with Moina, Mathers has expounded some teachings on elemental sexuality.

14 January- By this time the crisis is over temporarily, and Horniman (F.E.R.) seems to have accepted a rebuke from Mathers and a hurt chastening by Moina.

March- Annie Horniman (F.E.R) complained that Mathers had no time for the arrears of work at 62 Oakley Square, which is described as the "headquarters of the Second Order." Westcott was doing most of the work on grading examinations at this point, as well as most of the other paperwork in the organization. It is unclear what was located at the Oakley Square site - possibly a business office used by Westcott.

10 March (Wednesday)- The Mathers (S.R.M.D. and Vestigia) were back in London on a visit by this time, probably for the equinox ceremony. They were staying with Ada Waters (Recta Pete), and returned to Paris on the 13th.

May- Isabelle de Steiger (A.P) 5=6

13 May (Wednesday)- The group assembled by Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) to contact her "Egyptian Adept" makes its initial attempt. Farr, Allan Benett (Iehi Aour), Charles Rosher (Aequo Animo - A.A.), and F.L. Gardner (D.P.A.L.) invoke Mercury - Taphthartharath - the ritual is written by Benett.

June 4- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) missed Corpus Christi because of politics, probably involvement with fringe Jacobite activities in Paris. Annie Hornimann (F.E.R.) took this and Mathers' political involvement as an insult to herself and the order, and shortly thereafter off the Mathers allowance, which had been their principal income in the past three years.

July- A letter was sent to Mrs. Florence E. S. Kennedy (Volo), containing 13 charges against the Theorici - 11 were particular to Annie Horniman (F.E.R.)

22 August- M. Eugene Jacob (Ely Star) takes joins Ahathoor

September- Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) resigns as Sub-Praemonstrator (instructor) of Isis-Urania, but plans to stay active within the Second Order. There is a general perception that by this time the Theorici are getting restless - threatening Mathers authority

29 October- "Manifesto" issued. In this document, Mathers (S.R.M.D.) chastens the rebellious Theorici, and commands them to "submit" to his rule, swearing an "oath of allegiance" to the Second Order and to himself as Chief. Mathers repports that he is under terrible strain from receiving rituals of the Second Order from Secret Chiefs Using "table, ring and disc" (a Ouija like divining mechanism). He also cites constant strife with opposing Demonic forces which has caused terrible nervous prostration, and blood loss through his nose, mouth, ears, etc.

22 November- Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) submits to the Chief. She is in Florence, Italy, until the beginning of 1897

28 November- Mme Jenny Jacob (Gnothi Seauton) joins the G.D.

December- In November or December, Mathers negotiates unsuccessfully with George Redway's esoteric publishing house for advances and more money on his publication of a translation of The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, a manuscript from the French Libraire D'Arsenal. By December, Mathers has returned his advances from Redway, and stricken a new deal with G.D. member F. L. Gardner (D.P.A.L.) who offered financial backing for publication of the Abra-Melin book. The enterprise is not philanthropic - Gardner means to make a profit - but it alleviates Mathers' short term financial problems in the wake of Horniman's withdrawal of his allowance.

1 December, 1896- Dr. Felkin (Respice) takes 5=6

3 December- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) expells Horniman from the G.D. Shortly after this, Dr. Pullen Burry (Anima pura sit - A.P.S.) went to Paris to see Mathers. Mathers defends his expulsion of the contentious Hornimann, and his support of Berridge (Resurgam). He also mentions that he is annoyed at Westcott (S.A.) felt he was usurping his authority.

19 December- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) defends his expulsion of Horniman (F.E.R.) to Gardner (D.P.A.L.). Over the next day or two, Gardner organizes a fairly humble petition to ask Mathers to reinstate Horniman. He received 39 replies - 29 affirmative, 9 negative (including Allan Benett (Iehi Aour), Ada Waters (Recta Pete), and J.W. Brodie-Innes (Sub spe). R. W. Felkin (Finem respice) declines to make a decision one way or the other. The petition was never sent to Mathers, possibly because Gardner learned he would not accept it.

25 December- Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) wrote William Peck (Veritas et Lux), a prestigious member of the Amoun-Ra Temple in Edinburg, and disclosed the information on her many loans to the Mathers, totaling more than ?1200, over several years. This information is quickly made public within the Second Order.


1897 saw the fallout of the first Rebellion within the Golden Dawn. Mathers (S.R.M.D.) retained his strong control of the organization, but from this point became increasingly paranoid and jealous of his prerogatives regarding his role within the order. By October of 1897, things looked bleak for the order. One member commented that "my faith in the Chief is completely shaken" and said that "it seems hardly likely that the Order can go on much longer in the present unsatisfactory state of affairs." Nevertheless, under the leadership of Florence Farr, the order would recover, and remain fairly stable for two years.

11 January- G. C. Jones (Volo) 5=6

18 January- Elain Simpson (Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis - Fidelis) joins G.D.

January- The Mathers (S.R.M.D. and Vestigia) visited London at the end of the month in order to calm the Theorici. Westcott, who had up to this point only been Registrar, was made Vice-Imperator, giving him for the first time direct authority in the Second Order. His replacement of Percy Bullock (L.O.) seems to have been amicable.

17 March- Westcott (S.A.) has to resign as Vice-Imperator - because some occult manuscripts carrying his address were left in a cab, and he received some sort of official notice that a Coroner of the Crown could not be involved in magical activities. Apparently, something similar happened in 1889 which caused him to stop lecturing for the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. Aliester Crowley (Perdurabo) later alleged that Mathers (S.R.M.D.) left the documents, and this was rumored or suspected at the time. The truth of the matter is unknown.

It seems almost certain that the removal of Westcott (S.A.) caused the collapse of the examination system. Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) did not care to enforce Second Order examinations, and Mathers (S.R.M.D.) was far too busy with "political business." Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) was also gone at this point. Westcott suggested in a letter to Gardner that Charles Rosher (A.A.) and Miss Ada Waters (Recta Pete) pick up the work he had been doing, but it is clear that no-one else had the time to devote to the order's minutiae that Westcott had taken.

1 April- Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) was appointed Vice-Imperator of Isis-Urania, and made Chief Adept in Anglia. At the same time, the formation of secret groups was advised and legalized by Mathers (S.R.M.D.)

5 April- Mathers' (S.R.M.D.) lost the Abra Melin manuscripts in a railway carriage in France. It was May before he informed Gardner.

6 April - Howe thinks that Westcott (S.A.) may have had a mild nervous breakdown by this date, as a result of his involuntary retirement. He wrote to Gardner (D.P.A.L.) complaining of being "ill." Sometime after this Westcott formed his own small "Secret Group" for study and occult work.

April- At this point, Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) was collecting money for the Mathers. Ada Waters (Recta Pete) came back from Paris with the news that the Mathers needed ?75. Amoun-Ra gave Mathers all its extra funds.

1 May- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) travelled to Scotland to take on problems in Amoun-Ra. He apparently briefly made himself Imperator, in the same way that Westcott (S.A.) had briefly been Imperator of Horus during its problems. Mathers displaced Brodie Innes (Sub Spe) to Praemonstrator, and Peck (V.E.L.) to Vice-Imperator. By late 1897, Peck was Imperator.

May 1897- A Pamphlet on the teachings of Thomas Lake Harris is issued by "Respiro" - generally understood to be Dr. Berridge (Resurgam). At one point the author describes how he worked magic against an opponent. There is every evidence to indicate that this was documentation of a magical attempt by Berridge to injure Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) and a version of the pamphlet with a derisive bit of doggerel which made the matter more clear was sent to a member.

9 May- Gardner (D.P.A.L.) finds out about Mathers' (S.R.M.D.) troubles, and makes an offer of money and lodging until Mathers completes his work. The terms include a cessation of all political work, restoration of Annie Horniman (F.E.R.), and the offer was genuinely somewhat rude in nature. Mathers refused indignantly, but was fairly kind to Gardner.

May- Subsequently, Gardner (D.P.A.L.) complained to Mathers (S.R.M.D.) about Berridge (Resurgam), and wrote to Berridge saying that he would likely hear from Horniman’s solicitors. By this time the fight between Berridge and Horniman was very bitter indeed. Based on the poem, Mathers did suspend Berridge for six months.

2 July- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) dispatches the Abra-melin Manuscript to Gardner (D.P.A.L.).

July- At some point during this period, Mathers (S.R.M.D.) was talking of fear of assassination, which Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) privately derided.

August- Westcott (S.A.) had an "astral visitor" who was "known to him" who advised him he should not work with Annie Horniman (F.E.R.) or any other sorores. From this point on Westcott did not work with the women of the order in private, and he was already out of all public involvement.

15 August- With Berridge's (Resurgam) suspension almost up, Gardner (D.P.A.L.) wrote him a strongly worded, possibly threatening letter.

17 August- Mathers (S.R.M.D.) criticized Gardner (D.P.A.L.) for his rebuke of Berridge (Resurgam), and even Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) thought Gardner was out of line. Gardner's behavior seems to have been becoming more erratic, which Mathers attributed to his possession of the Abra-Melin manuscripts.

22 August- Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) wrote a humiliating letter to Gardner (D.P.A.L.), in which she said she could not recommend him for further official position in Isis-Urania.

August- Early in August Gardner (D.P.A.L.) wrote an angry letter to the member whose function was to circulate notices of meetings, because she had failed to invite him to the August 7 ceremony. She took exception to his tone and complained to Florence Farr (S.S.D.D).

8 September- Gardner (D.P.A.L.) resigned from Isis-Urania and sent a notice for Dr. Pullen-Burry (A.P.S.) to read at the equinox ceremony. Gardner complained bitterly and wrote a condemnatory letter to Pullen-Burry when the latter failed to read his letter before the assembly.

9 September- around this time the Second order moved to new premises at 36 Blythe Road, off Hammersmith Road. Gardner had presented a book case, and agreed to leave it until after he ceremony, though he refused to let the order buy it from him.

November- Despite factionalization, Amoun-Ra was still in business at this point, and was building its own Second Order vault. Isabelle De Steiger (Alta Peto) painted the Vault at Edinburgh


We know comparatively little of 1898. A survey of available information would seem to indicate that the year was "slow." On the other hand, there is also a lack of documentation. The extensive knowledge of the order in 1896-97 is partially because of correspondence from Annie Horniman and F. L. Gardner, both of whom moved away from the organization (Annie suspended, and Gardner a corresponding member of Horus Temple feuding with Florence Farr). On the whole, 1898 seems to have been a milder year for the order. Letters indicate that Florence Farr was an effective "cushion" between the Theorici, and Mathers' high-handedness, and the Chief himself was deeply enmeshed in Jacobite politics, and the Isis Movement he hoped to inaugurate in Paris. Where his attention was focused on the order, it was on the feuding Amoun-Ra Temple in Edinburgh, which by late 1899 seems to have almost entirely collapsed. In general the storm that would destroy the order in Jan-May of 1900 broke rather suddenly, after a time of seeming peace. Without doubt, however, there were deep tensions within the order.

February- Horus Temple Bradford petitioned for direct control by Mathers to keep any “petticoat government” by Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) from affecting them. This was a direct result of Gardner showing them the letter Florence Farr had sent him. “Common Sense and good fellowship” was held to be more important at Horus than G.D. Grades

February- Eugene Jacob (Ely Star) takes 5=6 at Ahathoor

29 July- Westcott (S.A.) went to Edinburgh 29 July 1898. By this point, Amoun-Ra Temple is apparently in complete collapse. The Temple is divided between followers of Brodie-Innes (Sub Spe), and followers of Peck (L.E.R.), who support Mathers (S.R.M.D.) - a total of about fifteen on each side. In a private letter, Westcott suggested that “All the scotch have reckoned him (Mathers) up correctly but a few seniors are doing like one in London (probably meant to be Florence Farr) tolerating a master in hope of further profit." Mathers was apparently quite unpopular, and Brodie-Innes section of the Amoun-Ra Temple can be viewed as being in more or less open rebellion at this point. Westcott said that Peck's faction had already had some defections and resignations.

22 September- Camille Videgrain (Sursum Corda - S.C.) joins Ahathoor in Paris

18 November- Aliester Crowley (Perdurabo) initiated


March - The Mathers' "Rite of Isis" presented at Bodiniere Theatre in the Rue Saint-Lazare in March 1899. This was part of an ongoing esoteric project of the Mathers' which did not directly relate to the Golden Dawn. Though couched as a historical project, the idea was to expose the public to the old Graeco-Roman mystery cult of Isis, and revive Isis worship in Paris. This would lead to Mathers' crowning public achievement, the presentation of a reconstructed Isis Temple at the 1900 Paris World's Fair.

3 March- A. E. Waite (S.R.) takes 5=6

18 March- Elaine Simpson (Fidelis) takes 5=6

May- Crowley (Perdurabo) becomes 4=7. He completes examination, and is qualified as a nominal 5=6, but is refused initiation to the Second Order.

August- Crowley goes into a "magical retreat" at Boleskine in Scotland, to attempt to work Mathers' Abra-Melin process.

November- Dawning hom*osexual scandal. There appears to have been police investigation of some hom*osexual conduct at Cambridge, and Crowley's name was proposed in reference to it, along with some of his G.D. associates, including Allan Bennett. No charges were filed, and no G.D. members were actively questioned by the police, though some of them may have been watched. This and rumors of a sexual affair with Elaine Simpson (Fidelis), the daughter of Mrs. Alice Simpson (Perseverantia et Cura Quies - Preserverantia)

V. What Has not Gone Before

I think it is worth a brief note to describe a few of the really well known events that hadnotoccurred by December 1899 - everyone knows about them, and it may be easier this way to place them firmly out of mind. Notably, the series of events (best left vague for those who are not already familiar with them) that led to the offer to reinstate Horniman, the Telegram, the January 12th Adept Council, the letter from Mathers (S.A.) to Farr (S.S.D.D.) which suggested that Westcott forged the Sprengel letters, etc. were all some weeks in the future. Needless to say the "Battle of Blythe Road" in which Crowley briefly took possession of the Second Order Vault and catalyzed the "Revolt of the Adepts" was a future event as well.

A. The Cipher Manuscript and the Fraulein Sprengel Letters

Some notes about the famous "Cipher Manuscript" of the Golden Dawn

  • The code used in the cipher manuscript is from Trithemius’ Polygraphiae (1561). Kenneth MacKenzie, as well as any other competent occultist, would have had access to it.
  • There are several different stories of exactly how the Cipher manuscripts came to be in the possession of Dr. William Wynn Westcott, however the following is a summary that covers most of the more common particulars - note that this is merely the "story" and that the cipher manuscripts were later disputed as forgeries by Westcott:
  • The Cipher manuscripts were written by Johann Falk, around 1810-1815
  • The papers were once held by Eliphas Levi, but he lost them, possibly on his visit in 1854
  • Some years later they came into the possession of Kenneth Mackenzie. Along with Frederick Hockley he wrote to Fraulein Sprengel - Soror Sapiens Dominatabur Astris (S.D.A) - and received permission to open an English Lodge “Hermanubis Temple No. 2” The papers gave a contact address for Fraulein Sprengel - Herr J. Enger, Hotel Marquardt, Stuttgart.
  • Later MacKenzie and Hockley recruited Rev. A.F.A. Woodford to join them. Hockley died in 1885. MacKenzie died in 1886. A.F.A. Woodford died in 1887, and William Wynn Westcott got his papers.
  • Note that Rev. A.F.A. Woodford should not be confused either with Dr. W. R. Woodman - the third co-founder of the Golden Dawn, who died early on, or with Rev W.A. Ayton, an elderly gentleman who was a member of the Golden Dawn for years).
  • Westcott wrote to Fraulein Sprengel (S.D.A.), and got a letter back, though her address had long since changed. (Note that she was not called “Anna” Sprengel yet. After the turn of the Century Felkin was in contact with an “Anna Sprengel” who he thought might be a cousin of the deceased S.D.A. He mentioned this to several people, and the name “Anna” got attached to S.D.A.)
  • Letters to and from Fraulein Sprengel (S.D.A) were Translated by Mr. Albert Essinger, of the Sanitary Wood Wool Company
  • The first letter, 26 Nov 1887, mentions Hermanubis Temple which was chartered to two Englishmen. Without much fanfare, Westcott is chartered to open Temple No. 3, which is to have three chiefs
  • Four letters are subsequently written from Frater In Utroque Fidelis, Secretary for Fraulein Sprengel (S.D.A.). The only other reference to continental adepts is a statement that on 7 Feb 1888, Frater Igne died at Naples.
  • The final letter is 23 August 1890 from ex Uno Disces Omnes, who said that Fraulein Sprengel (S.D.A.) had gone against the will of the other continental adepts to charter Isis-Urania Temple No. 3, and that henceforth there would be no contact.
B. Officers of Isis-Urania Temple

Notes: despite the heavy turnover of offices in Mid 1892, I cannot find any specific information on a scandal or problem at that time. Miss Theresa Jane O’Connell (Cial agus neart - C.A.N.) was expelled in 1892 after a fight with Moina Mathers. In fact what seems to have happened is that there was a general run of people being "kicked upstairs" with the appointment of Berridge as Sub-Imperator. Florence Farr left as Cancellarius probably to work more heavily with Westcott in training, eventually taking over as Praemonstrator the next year. Bullock moved from Sub-Cancellarius to Cancellarius, the logical replacement, and his future father in law A.J. Carden (Fide) became the new Sub-Cancellarius.

Accurate records end with the end of Westcott's term as Vice-Imperator. At the end of 1897 12 other officers were appointed, and most characters can expect that if they are Isis-Urania members they are one of the "other sorts of sub-chiefs." From the persons who served on the committees after the Rebellion of 1900, we can deduce who were probably office-holders in 1898-99.

Officers of Isis-Urania

Sub Imperator Berridge (Resurgam) 1892-March 1896
P.W. Bullock (L.O.) March - Jan or Feb 1897
Vice-Imperator Westcott (S.A.) Feb -March 1897
Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) March 1897 - present
Praemonstrator Westcott (S.A.) through March 1893
Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) March 1893-1897
Sub-Praemonstrator Berridge (Resurgam) during early 1892
Annie Hornimann (F.E.R.) mid 1892-1896
Helen Rand (Vigilate) 1896 through 1897
Cancellarius Florence Farr (S.S.D.D.) early 1892
Percy Bullock (L.O.) mid 1892 - March 1896
Dr. Pullen-Burry (A.P.S.) 1896-97
Sub-Cancellarius Percy Bullock (L.O.) early 1892
Alexander Carden (Fide) mid 1892 - march 1894
Pullen-Burry (A.P.S.) March 1894 - 1895
Pamela Bullock (Shemebar) 1896-97

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (7)

IV - The Golden Dawn Temple

— Officers Ceremony and Costume —

The Golden Dawn in the Outer

You already know that the Golden Dawn was an occult organization, which started accepting members around 1888. However most of the history associated with the G.D. does not concern the "Golden Dawn" proper, but rather the "Second Order" (or "Inner Order") of the R.R. et A.C. of the Golden Dawn, which only existed after 1891-92.

Joining The G.D. in the Outer

There is very little exciting about the G.D. "in the Outer," as the First Order was called after 1892. Members applied in writing to William Wynn Westcott's address, and were mailed a pledge form. If they signed and returned it, they were then accepted or rejected. In many cases, the Order initially rejected a membership, but counseled the applicant to apply again after about six months. There appear to have been two elements here. First, a certain degree of "high-handedness," admission might seem more desirable if it was delayed. Secondly, there was a very real desire to turn away both the "idle curious" and those who might be intent on embarrassing or otherwise interfering with the order. Remember that at this point, most English Gentleman's Clubs, and all Masonic Orders, functioned along these lines, and the process was not so mysterious or aberrant as it might seem today. A.E. Waite was told by a friend that it was a "standard practice" for the Order to decline members "about whom they did not know anything," presumably using the interim to check out references, and friends of friends. After the first brief reference in Lucifer, there is no indication that there was any "advertising" for the G.D. per se. There may well have been other examinations as well.

Arthur Conan Doyle was a friend of Dr. Henry Pullen-Burry, and the Dr. suggested he might apply for membership. Conan Doyle would later describe an "Astral Visitation" whereby he was examined for membership. The process unnerved him, but convinced him of the reality of the Golden Dawn's powers. Similar sensations have been described by other initiates who were examined either "in person" or "astrally" for membership in an occult order. Conan Doyle's judgement can hardly be considered unimpeachable...he is the man who was utterly taken in by the Wright-Griffith Fairy Hoax. However his experience is typical, rather than exceptional, and there is no question that the Golden Dawn claimed that its living Chiefs examined Outer Order applicants. Whether the "Secret Chiefs" paid them much attention or not is conjecture. Certainly Mathers made it clear in his "Manifesto" that and those "higher" initiates of 8=3 and beyond examined candidates prior to, and after, admission to the Second Order.

The Golden Dawn in the Outer conferred the degrees of:

    0=0 Neophyte
    1=10 Zelator
    2=9 Theoricus
    3=8 Practicus
    4=7 Philosophus
The G.D. Officers:

There are two types of Officer within the Golden Dawn Temple. The first is the "Ritual Officers" who have no very serious duties outside of the actual Temple Ceremonies. The second is the actual "Officers" who govern the day to day affairs of the temple and do the paperwork. The names of the Ritual Officers come from certain Eastern Mysteries. At least for Outer Order Ceremonies, the Ritual Offices seem to have been filled by any qualified individual for a given ceremony. In Flying Roll No. 1, Mathers says "Anyone who being a 4=7 and passes five Examinations becomes a nominal 5=6, and is competent to preside at First Order Assemblies [i.e. as Hierophant]..." Even so, we can imagine that roles were frequently taken on by the same individual.

The regular Officers were a more serious matter. These were the individuals who actually "ran" the Golden Dawn, and they turned over fairly infrequently. One is under the impression that Westcott, as "Chief Adept in Anglia" stood in as Heirophant except when Mathers was present.

Ritual Officers

    Hierophanthead of cult
    HiereusPriest – “expounder of the mysteries”
    Hegemon-“leader or general” prepares the candidate for initiation
    KeruxHerald – makes reports and announcement
    Stolistespriest in charge of sacred vestments
    Dadouchostorch bearer, assist the Heirophant, takes care of all the lamps and fires

Sub Imperator or Vice-Imperator

    The Imperator ran a temple, but after 1892, Mathers remained Imperator of Isis-Urania, but lived in Paris. The "Chief" returned for important ceremonies twice a year (rather than holding similar ceremonies at his Ahathoor Temple in Paris), however during the remainder of the year, the "Sub Imperator" was his spokesman and the head of the temple. When Westcott was briefly in this position, it was changed to "Vice-Imperator" - after all he was one of the initial three chiefs. One can assume that when Florence Farr succeeded to the position, it returned to "Sub-Imperator" though there is no specific evidence of this.
    This was the position of "Teacher" for the Temple. The Praemonstrator was in charge of teaching ritual, and other subjects, or arranging for them to be taught. Clearly, next to Imperator, this was the most important position in the Temple, and it was Florence Farr, Isis-Urania's Praemonstrator, who moved to Imperator after Westcott was forced to resign in March of 1897.
    The wealth of work with the Order in teaching ritual seems to have necessitated some help. It isn't clear when Berridge began as Sub-Praemonstrator, though it must have been some reasonable time after May 1888, when he joined.
    The Cancellarius of the Temple was basically Registrar, with a Sub-Cancellarius for support. This person had the membership roll, or at least the mailing list of members, and presumably collected the dues. It is clear that other individuals assisted the Cancellarius and Sub-Cancellarius with the mundane affairs of the Order. Ada Cracknell was in charge of circulating manuscripts, and another member was a "Secretary" charged with mailing notices of upcoming meetings to members.
    Westcott noted that in November 1897, amid the fallout from the first, abortive, rebellion of the Theorici, “12 other sorts of sub-chief” were appointed, but we have no record of who they were.
The Second Order - The G.D. In the Inner or the A.A. et R.C.

Initially, Second Order initiation consisted of nothing more than the 5=6 grade. Shortly thereafter, the "Portal Grade" with no number was added. Initially "nominal 5=6" members took the Portal Grade, and then the 5=6 Second Order initiation almost immediately thereafter. By the late 90's however, there was a waiting period of 4-6 months.

In addition there were "sub grades" within 5=6

The Second Order was theoretically comprised of all those with the degrees of:

    5=6 Adeptus Minor
    Zelator Adeptus Minor
    Theoricus Adeptus Minor
    Practicus Adeptus Minor
    Philosophus Adeptus Minor
    6=5 Adeptus Major
    7=4 Adeptus Exemptus
Members of the G.D. Second Order were Zelator Adeptus Minor (Z.A.M.) or Theoricus Adeptus Minor (Th.A.M.). There was actually curriculum for Practicus Adeptus Minor circulated around 1897, but there is no evidence by this time that anyone actually took the Grade. The concept of Philosophus Adeptus Minor rounded out the logical procession, but no ritual or materials were made available...Mathers had not gotten that far by the time the Order collapsed.

Westcott, Mathers, and Woodman were all self-anointed 7=4 from the day the G.D. was founded. The grades beyond lay in the shadowy realm of the quasi human "Secret Chiefs." Mathers claimed a 6=5 for Moina. Otherwise, no G.D. member rose above 6=5.

The Third Order, for what it may be worth included:

    8=3 Magister Templi
    9=2 Magus
    10=1 Ipissimus
Mathers claimed to have met members of the Third Order in the flesh, and Florence Farr's Egyptian Adept was asserted to be 8=3.


  • Members of the G.D. Outer Order wear Black Robes
  • Members of the G.D. Inner Order wear White Robes (but wear Black Robes at Outer Order Ceremonies)
  • The grade of a member can be told from the sash which they wear
  • 5=6 Members would have two sashes, crossed, a black and a white.
Robes were in fact optional, though the grade sash had to be worn during Temple Rituals. Members of the Second Order wore a double sash at Outer Order Ceremonies. While doing rituals that were not part of regular Temple Ritual, there is no indication that robes were worn. It is unclear for example, whether or not the "Sphere Group" used the G.D. Robes, or insignia, while working, but it can be presumed, since it was optional to wear robes even for Temple Functions, that robes were not compulsory.
    Hierophant– Red Cloak, *Lamen, Sceptre, Yellow and White Nemyss (Egyptian Head-Dress), Lamen affixed to a Yellow Collar.
    Hiereus– Black Cloak, Lamen, Sword
    Hegemon- White Cloak, Lamen, Sceptre
    Kerux– Lamen, Lamp, Wand
    Stolistes– Lamen, Cup
    Dadouchos– Lamen, Sword
    *The "Lamen" described is the Rosy Cross Symbol.

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Thelemagick Library - The History of the Golden Dawn (8)

VII - The French Rosicrucian Movement

The French Rosicrucian Movement was if anything, the main thrust of Western Occultism, of which the Golden Dawn in England was a footnote. Ultimately the G.D. would excercise influence disproportionate to its size, largely because it was the literature most accessible to English speaking Americans from 1970 onward. On the other hand, the largest existing American Rosicrucian Organization AMORC is descended from Encausse's Martinist Order, and the American OTO is descended from the French and German organizaitons consolidated by Encausse and Theodor Reuss.

1. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin

During his lifetime (1743 to 1803), Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin founded no group or fraternity for the study of the higher mysteries of religious experience. As a nobleman, he was imprisoned for a short period during the Revolution, but released upon the intercession of local officials who sought to employ him as a public school teacher. He set out his inspirational thoughts in several books. The greatest self-admitted influence upon Saint-Martin were the books of the German mystical philosopher Jacob Boehme. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin was the first to translate Boehme's works from German into French. There is evidence in his published letters, that he was acquainted with occult subjects of his time like spiritualism, magnetic treatments, magical evocation and the works of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Saint-Martin did not marry and did not have any children.

Both before and after his death, circles of admirers of Saint-Martin's works spontaneously formed for the purpose of discussing and perhaps practicing his philosophy. These were generically called "Friends of Saint-Martin. “ This would give rise to the Martinist Order which was important in France at around the same time as the Golden Dawn.

2. Joséphin Péladan and the “War of the Roses.”

Joséphin Péladan was born in 1858, in Lyon. His father, Louis-Adrien, and his brother, were impassioned by alchemy, magnetism, arts, sciences, literature and Christian mysticism.
Joséphin’s brother Adrien (1815-1890), was one of the first French homeopaths, and had become a Rosicrucian of the order of Firmin Boissin (1835-1893), who was Commander of the Rosicrucian Temple of Toulouse, Prieur of Toulouse and senior of the Council of Fourteen. Another member of the Toulouse Command had Viscount Louis-Charles-Edouard de Lapasse (1792-1867), a pupil of prince Balbiani of Palermo, who had been a pupil of Cagliostro.

In 1884, Péladan published a novel with strong Rosicrucian and occult themes, probably in the same vein as Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni. It was a success and he became a celebrity, involved in many art reviews. He also did studies of painters such as Rembrandt, Dürer, Herbert, Frans Hals. Be became a member of l'Académie Française.

In Paris, Péladan became acquainted with the Marquis Stanislas de Guaita, who had become interested in Occultism after reading Péladan’s novel. The two determined to rebuild the Command of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. To this end they recruited Gerard Encausse, “Papus.” Within a short time there were problems. Papus wanted to dramatically extend the membership of the organization, which Péladan was against. Péladan felt that Papus was too interested in occultism and magic, and they also disagreed with his doctrines, clearly modeled on the Theosophical teachings of Mme. Blavatsky, which suggested that Christianity was on a par with the other great religions.

In November of 1890, Péladan split with de Guaita and Papus. Péladan created the "Rose+Croix Catholique,” which almost immediately changed it’s name to "Ordre of Rose+Croix of the Temple and Graal" De Guaita and Papus published invectives against Péladan, and the whole fiasco was known as the “War of the Roses.”

Péladan’s Rose+Croix organized its first Salons (art shows) March 10 through April 10, 1892, and were quite popular with the public, drawing heavily on the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist schools, and heavily opposing realist art. The first show opened at the gallery During-Ruel, on the Rue de Lepelletier, in Paris. Sixty artists presented 250 works. The Salon good good notices in the "La Mercuire de France.” The lines were so long that the prefecture of police had to post men to keep the street from being blocked, as the gallery could only hold about 200 people at a time. By some counts, the final total of visitors was over 22,600. The show involved presentations of music and Rosicrucian ritual as well as art. There would be six Salons between then and 1897, all of them quite successful.

The last show in 1897 at the luxurious gallery Georges-Petite, one of the most prestigious in Paris, had 15,000 visitors the first day. De Guaita died from a drug overdose in 1897, and after the last show, Péladan announced that he was putting his order into abeyance. There are strong rumors that the authorities did everything they could to prevent further Rosicrucian shows, because their success was a strain on the Prefecture of Police, and they incurred the opposition of the Director of Public Buildings. In 1898 the Symbolist movement began to decline, with the death of several of its leading artists. Though some of the most prestigious artists never displayed at the Rosicrucian Salons, it is notable that the decline of the movement followed the end of the Salons.

Following the Collapse of the "Ordre of Rose+Croix of the Temple and Graal,” Papus tried to reunify Péladan’s order with his own, but was largely unsuccessful. An offshoot order operated in Belgium for some time, under the leadership of one of Péladan’s disciples.

3. Gérard Encausse “Papus” and The Martinists

Gérard Encausse, usually known by his pseudonym "Papus," was a Spanish-born French physician and occultist. Encausse's pseudonym "Papus" was taken from Eliphas Lévi's "Nuctemeron of Apollonius of Tyana" (supplement to Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie) and means "physician."

Papus was an author of books on magic, Qabalah and the Tarot. He joined the French Theosophical Society shortly after it was founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1884-85, but he resigned shortly after joining because he disliked the Theosophical Society's emphasis on Eastern occultism. In 1888, he and his friend Lucien Chamuel founded the monthly Resocrucian magazine L'Initiation, which remained in publication until 1914.

Papus claimed as his "spiritual master" the mysterious magician and healer known as "le Maitre Philippe" (Philippe Nizier). In 1888, Papus, and de Guaita joined with Joséphin Péladan and Oswald Wirth to found the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix.

In 1891, after the “War of the Roses,” Papus formed an organization called l'Ordre des Supérieurs Inconnus of three degrees, commonly known as the Order of the Martinists, Papus claimed to have come into the possession of the original papers of an extinct Rosicrucian Organization, and to have been given authority in the Rite of Saint-Martin by his friend Henri Viscount Delaage.

In 1893, Papus was consecrated a bishop of The Gnostic Catholic Church by Jules Doinel, who had founded this Church as an attempt to revive the Cathar religion in 1890. In 1895, Doinel abdicated as Primate of the French Gnostic Church leaving control of the Church to a synod of three of his former bishops, one of whom was Papus. In March of the same year, Papus joined the Ahathoor Temple of the Golden Dawn in Paris.

4. Boulan, De Guiata and the “Magical War”

Abbe Boullan was a defrocked Catholic Priest, and the head of a schismatic branch of the “Work of Mercy,” called the “Church of the Carmel.” In the late 1880’s Boullan became involved in a “magical war” with the Marquis Stanislas de Guiata.

On Boullan’s side was the French realistic novelist Joris K. Huysmans, and the writer Jules Bois. His primary assistant was Julie Thibaut, his Priestess, housekeeper, and lover. Guiata was attacked in “La Bas,” a sensationalized novel by Huysmans, which portrayed him as a Satanic sorcerer. Bois launched similar attacks.

It was clear within the larger Rosicrucian movement that Boullan was a decadent, and probably a Satanist, who taught sexual magic pratices, and engaged in fornication and black rites with his housekeeper. Papus urged that Péladan and de Guiata show restraint, and this was one of the tensions that broke the new Martinist Council.

Bois challeneged de Guiata to a pistol duel. Bois had expected sinister magical influences to be exerted on the outcome of the duel; and indeed, his horse suffered fit of unexplained terror on the way to the dueling ground. Neither de Guaita nor Bois were hurt during the duel, but later, it was discovered that one of the guns (it was never determined whose gun it was) had misfired, and its bullet had never left the chamber.

Not long after, Bois challeneged Papus with sabers. This time, Bois' carriage collapsed twice on the way to the duelling ground. Papus and Bois were both only slightly wounded in the duel and they later became friends.

5. Leo Taxil

In 1881, a young anti-clericalist named Gabriel-Antoine Jogand-Pages was made a Freemason. Within a year, he resigned from Masonry, converted to Catholicism, and began one of the most notorious propaganda campaigns in the history of Occultism.

Under the pseudonym of Leo Taxil, Jogand published a number of books and articles in which he "proved" that Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Martinism and other similar organizations were utterly satanic in nature, and posed a dire threat to Christian European civilization. All such organizations were secretly controlled by the mysterious "Order of the Palladium," a ruthless, terrible and extremely secretive body within the heart of Freemasonry which worshipped the Devil with inhuman rites and received commands directly from the Prince of Darkness himself. The Palladists were allegedly headed by Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and a High Priestess named Diana Vaughan. Miss Vaughan, a direct descendant of the 17th century Rosicrucian and Alchemist Thomas Vaughan, had been corresponding with Taxil. Her heart had evidently been softened by one too many child sacrifices, and she had secretly written to Taxil to inquire about how she might be saved. Her correspondence also revealed many shocking secrets of the devilish world of the Masonic Inner Circle: luciferian symbolism contained in seemingly innocent emblems and phrases; gruesome human sacrifices and obscene phallic orgies conducted in hidden chambers of infernal worship carved beneath the Rock of Gibraltar; and terrifying conspiracies for world satanic domination.
Needless to say, Jogand/Taxil's works became quite popular. They rapidly gained him the notice and smug patronage of the Roman Catholic Church, and he even obtained an official audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1887.

Ultimately, Miss Vaughan, by then world-famous, decided once and for all to renounce Satan and convert to Catholicism. The Church eagerly anticipated her public introduction, which Jogand/Taxil scheduled for April 19, 1897. To a lecture hall filled with Catholic Clergy and Freemasons, Jogand revealed that Diana Vaughan was none other than his secretary, but that there was no point in introducing her, because she had never been a High Priestess of the Palladists. In fact, there had never been an Order of the Palladium. He, Gabriel Jogand, had fabricated the entire story as a monumental joke at the expense of the Church. He had remained a faithful anti-clericalist all along. The Masons present found this revelation intensely amusing. The Catholic clergy present did not. Fortunately for the proprietors of the lecture hall, the police were summoned before a full-scale riot had broken out.

Jogand's success had been due, primarily, to his journalistic flair and to the credibility he enjoyed as a result of his enormous erudition; however, another significant factor in his success was his shrewd recruitment of a number of strategic, and totally unwitting, collaborators.

6. Jules Doinel and The Gnostic Church of France

The founder of the Gnostic Church was Jules-Benoît Stanislas Doinel du Val-Michel (1842-1903). Doinel was a librarian, a Grand Orient Freemason, an antiquarian and a practicing Spiritist. In 1888, while working as archivist for the Library of Orléans, he discovered an original charter dated 1022 which had been written by Canon Stephan of Orléans, a school master and forerunner of the Cathars who taught gnostic doctrines. Stephan was burned later the same year for heresy.

Doinel became fascinated by the drama of the Cathars and their heroic and tragic resistance against the forces of the Pope. He began to study their doctrines and those of their predecessors, the Bogomils, the Paulicians, the Manichaeans and the Gnostics.As his studies progressed, he became increasingly convinced that Gnosticism was the true religion behind Freemasonry.

One night in 1888, the "Aeon Jesus" appeared to Doinel in a vision and charged him with the work of establishing a new church. He spiritually consecrated Doinel as "Bishop of Montségur and Primate of the Albigenses." After his vision of the Eon Jesus, Doinel began attempting to contact Cathar and Gnostic spirits in seances in the salon of Maria de Mariategui, Lady Caithness, duch*esse de Medina Pomar.

Doinel had long been associated with Lady Caithness, who was a prominent figure in the French Spiritist circles of the time, a disciple of Anna Kingsford, and leader of the French branch of the Theosophical Society. She considered herself a reincarnation of Mary Stuart; and interestingly, a Spiritist communication in 1881 had foreshadowed to her a revolution in religion at the turn of the century which would result in a "New Age of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit." Doinel proclaimed the year 1890 as the beginning of the "Era of the Gnosis Restored." He assumed the office of Patriarch of the Gnostic Church under the mystic name of Valentin II.

Gérard Encausse, also known as "Papus" was consecrated early on as Tau Vincent, Bishop of Toulouse. Later in 1890, Doinel joined the Martinist Order of Papus and swiftly became a member of its Supreme Council. A Gnostic Mass, called the Fraction du pain or "Breaking of the Bread" was composed. This is the ancestor of the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass, which is still performed in America, after it’s near extinction in the 1950s.

In 1895, Jules Doinel suddenly abdicated as Patriarch of the Gnostic Church, resigned from his Masonic Lodge, and converted to Roman Catholicism. Under the pseudonym "Jean Kostka," he attacked the Gnostic Church, Masonry and Martinism in a book called Lucifer Unmasked. For the next two years, Doinel collaborated with Leo Taxil in articles denouncing the organizations that were formerly so much a part of his life. "Lucifer Unmasked" itself was probably a collaborative effort; its style betrays Jogand/Taxil's hand.

Doinel's defection was a devastating blow to the Gnostic Church, but it managed to survive. Interim control of the Church was assumed by the Synod of Bishops including Papus, and at a High Synod in 1896, they elected one of their bishops, Léonce-Eugène Fabre des Essarts as patriarch.

Essarts was a Parisian occultist, a Symbolist poet and a scholar of the Gnosis and Esoteric Christianity. He and another Gnostic Bishop, Louis-Sophrone Fugairon (Tau Sophronius), a physician who was also a scholar of the Cathars and the Knights Templar, entered into a collaborative relationship to continue the development of the Gnostic Church. Together, they began to shift the emphasis of the teachings of the Gnostic Church away from Gnostic theology and towards a more general view of "occult science.”

Source notes – from various essays in French.

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Proof read and edited by Frater D.M.T. © Thelemagick.

[ fromThe Historical Golden DawnR.R. et A.C. website ]


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