People that are new to the Golden Dawn tradition often
have many questions about the historical Golden Dawn Order, its history,
and its legacy. This article will attempt to answer some of the most
frequently asked questions about the Order and provide a comprehensive
explanation of the Order's background, influential members, and its
"The Order of the Golden Dawn is a hermetic society whose members are taught the principles of occult science and the magic of Hermes." - From the original Golden Dawn History Lecture.
The Order was an initiatory school that took the candidate through a system of grades that present the mysteries of the Western Esoteric Tradition. The Golden Dawn was not a magical Order, as so many modern authors have tried to convey; but rather, it was a special initiatory fraternity that prepared the aspirant for practical magic in the higher grades of the Second (Inner) Order.
The Order was formulated in 1887. The order has had several names over the last century, making it rather confusing at times for the serious candidate looking to connect with the current. Mathers himself changed the Order name from Golden Dawn to Alpha Et Omega and has changed several times since then. In addition, several groups carry the classic G.D. current and use different Order names. The fact that one group today holds a U.S. Trademark in no way validates their spiritual current.
The three primary founders of the Order were Dr. William Robert Woodman, Dr. William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers. The first Temple formed by these three was Isis-Urania, located in London, England. This Temple began to provide initiations in 1888. Initiation was then, and is now, a pre-requisite for beginning the "real" work of spiritual development.
Over the years, much of what we now accept as common occult knowledge was brought forth out of the chaos by sincere, hardworking Golden Dawn Adepti. The focus of the classical Golden Dawn current of energy is Western in nature. Although some modern authors have attempted to bring Eastern philosophies, such as chakras, etc., into Order teachings, they are not part of the Golden Dawn system. Rather, the Golden Dawn system is built on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. As a matter of fact, the whole grade structure of the Order is based on the Tree of Life.
It is the grades of 0=0 Neophyte through 4=7 Philosophus that comprise the "Outer Order" or the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn does not (as many uninformed authors have declared), go beyond 4=7. Beyond 4=7 is the "Second Order" or the "Inner Order." This is the governing Order of the Golden Dawn, but it is NOT the Golden Dawn!
There is a grade beyond 4=7 that is not of the Golden Dawn and is not really part of the Inner Order. It is called the grade of "Portal". This grade is the crowning point of the Golden Dawn grades in that it is related to "spirit," whereas the Outer grades are all related to a specific element. They are as follows:
0=0 - Neophyte - The Light that shines forth from
Thus, when the student goes through the grades of the Order, he/she has balanced the internal elements within his/her Sphere of Sensation. And, if Portal is achieved, the student has formulated the complete pentagram in balance and harmony within one's own Sphere of Sensation.
This is necessary and vital before one can approach the fountain of power awaiting beyond the veil of Paroketh in the Second Order. These energies are both rewarding and challenging, and they certainly cannot be obtained out of published books on the subject.
2. Is the Golden Dawn System a religion?
Despite the fact that the Inner Order is comprised of members of various religions, the primary influence is Christianity and Rosicrucianism. In the Inner Order, as well as in the Outer Order, the primary backdrop is Qabalistic. In addition, Egyptian and Greek mysteries are included, along with much Hermetic and alchemical studies.
3. Do I have to give up my religion
to join a Golden Dawn Order?
4. Was Alchemy Taught in the Order?
Many authors have not understood the great alchemical work undertaken by Second Order Adepti. In fact, the initiation rites of the Order are a form of spiritual alchemy which must be a prerequisite to both magical and physical alchemy. To merely acquire alchemical knowledge and manuscripts without proper initiation is to negate the entire alchemical process. One must remember that the finished product of physical alchemy can never be beyond the alchemist's power, curing ability, or spirit of capacity.
5. Why is so much emphasis placed on
Silence and Secrecy?
There is, however, another important reason for secrecy. It revolves around a Hermetic principle in which the alchemical process requires a closed container or to be "Hermetically Sealed."
In the early grades of the Outer Order, most of the material could be acquired from various sources. Some have wondered why there is a strict oath for such preliminary information. The answer is really quite simple. If one cannot be trusted with simple and relatively harmless information, then why should the Greatly Honored Chiefs of the Second Order trust that person with more advanced, detailed information and skill development techniques?
Early in this century, the notorious Aleister Crowley achieved the grade of Adeptus Minor in the Second Order. Later, when problems arose within his Sphere of Sensation and he refused to evolve beyond his exterior ego, he chose to publish what some thought was the body of Golden Dawn and Second Order information in his publication called the Equinox. There were court trials, injunctions etc.. In time, the material became public. If he had access to the vast body of Second Order material that remained out of his hands, he probably would have published it as well.
Several years later, Dr. Israel Regardie became a member of an offshoot Temple of the Golden Dawn. He published a four volume set that exposed to a wider audience many Golden Dawn and Second Order rituals and techniques. There is great debate as to which grade Regardie actually achieved. He claimed Z.A.M. (a grade of Adeptus Minor), but others have stated this was a falsehood and that he actually never achieved Second Order. In any event, the bottom line is that had Regardie known more, he would have no doubt published more.
Contrary to what some authors want you to believe, there is a vast body of Second Order information that still remains safely behind the veil of secrecy where it can be used only by those who are trained to do so and have proven themselves. Thus, they have been entrusted with the secrets that unlock the Greater Mysteries.
6. Is the Order still in existence?
When the first big split came to the Order in the early 1900's, the original Golden Dawn under S.L. MacGregor Mathers continued. There were dissident groups as well, such as the Stella Matutina (Stella Matutina is "Morning Star" in Latin, not be confused with the current order which teaches the classical teachings of S.L. MacGregor Mathers) from which Regardie and his offshoots came from. Shortly thereafter, Mathers changed the name of the Order to Alpha et Omega because of some ugly publicity the Order was experiencing in the London Press.
The functioning Temples in the United states were still operating under the name Golden Dawn (shortly thereafter, they began operating under various names). There were actually four Temples in the United States at the turn of the century. Because of Mathers, in his U.S. visit around the turn of the century where he worked one on one with American Adepti, some of the American Temples were run on a very strict basis and new membership was held to a minimum. These Temples, unlike some of there British counterparts, established a strong tradition of secrecy. It is from the well implanted root in America that the Order continues on today in various forms.
7. May I join the Order?
See links for a list of Golden Dawn temples.
8. What is expected of members of a
classical Golden Dawn order?
In addition, there are other significant points to the oath: Evil magic is not permitted, brotherly love is encouraged between Fraters and Sorors, dedication to Divine Light and to the magical way of life is primary, and respect for the religions of others must be maintained.
9. Is the classical Golden Dawn connected
with the Rosicrucians?
It was about the year of 1610 that an important document entitled the "Fama Franternitatis of the Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross" was revealed. This was a document that was first distributed among German occultists, and it eventually found its way across Europe.
It was in this important document that the outside world learned of a secret Order that taught the Hermetic and Christian Mysteries as well as the Holy Qabalah and masterful methods of healing etc.. In addition, the public learns for the first time of the founder, Frater C.R.C. or Christian Rosenkreutz, his mystical tomb or vault and the discovery of it.
It was in 1615 that a second document was revealed. This manifesto was entitled, "The Confessio Fraternitatis." This document seems to go into even greater detail about the Order.
The third document that is part of the Rosicruscian enlightenment is an alchemical document entitled, "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz". This document contained much sublime and hidden material that is important from an inner alchemical point of view.
Because of the strict work and valuable secrets of the Rosicrucian lodge, it slowly became tradition that its members were recruited from Freemasonry. In other words, Freemasonry became the Outer Order for a well hidden Inner Order called the
Brotherhood of the Rose and Cross.
Later, this Freemasonry Outer Order would be replaced and refined with an outer vehicle that taught more pertinent information and that also accepted women on an equal basis. This outer vehicle became known in Brtain and America as the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn.
9. How was Aleister Crowley involved
with the Golden Dawn?
Crowley remained in the service of Mathers through the first part of the revolt. However, Crowley soon saw that the revolt would provide him with the chance to exalt himself and he soon set against both the Order and Mathers. To see this through his own eyes here is a quote from Crowley's history lecture; Liber LXI Vel Causae A:. A:.
"In 1900 one P., a brother, [Crowley, "Perdurabo"] instituted a rigorous test of S.R.M.D. [Mathers] on one side and the Order on the other. He discovered that S.R.M.D., though a scholar of some ability and a magician of remarkable powers, had never attained complete initiation, and further, had fallen from his original place, he having imprudently attracted to himself forces of evil too great and terrible for him to withstand. The claim of the Order that the true Adepts were in charge of it was definitely disproved. In the Order, with two certain exceptions and two doubtful ones, he found no persons prepared for initiation of any sort. He thereupon by his subtle wisdom destroyed both the Order and its Chief."
Of course, the above statement by Crowley is not true at all. Both Mathers and the Order long survived Crowley's defection from the Order. As a matter of truth, the Order is larger and stronger today in a variety of forms and Temples than it ever was.
After leaving the Golden Dawn and receiving his Liber Al-Vel-Legis (The Book of the Law) in Cairo in 1904 , Crowley wrote many magical works and had a direct influence on two other organizations: the A:. A:. and the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis). Although both of these organizations serve a sincere part of the esoteric community, neither should in any way be compared to classical Golden Dawn Orders.
The O.T.O. was formed in 1895 by Karl Kellner and pracitices Masonic rites of sorts and also arts as a vehicle for teaching tantric based sex magic. In 1922, Crowley assumed the position of outer head of the Order or (OHO). He then began to overhaul the O.T.O. to conform to his "Book of the Law" and to the new Aeon of Horus. Crowley's beliefs can be found in his numerous works. They will fill the bookshelves of most Thelemites (Believers in the Book of the Law).
10. What is the Thelemic Golden Dawn?
11. Who was Israel Regardie?
He was eventually invited to join an "offshoot" branch of the Golden Dawn known as the Stella Matutina. Though not actually a part of the original Golden Dawn of Mathers, it did propagate the basic teachings of the system. It is uncertain how far he actually went in the Stella Matutina before resigning, for conflicting reports exist. Some state that he actually was initiated into 5=6 while others maintain that he left the Order in the grade of 3=8, Practicus.
Based upon feelings that the Golden Dawn system was becoming moribund under the auspices of the Stella Matutina, Israel Regardie chose to break all previous oaths and publish all of the material that he had received from the Order as a member. Regardie was keenly aware, however, that he had no lineage to pass on to anyone. He felt that by doing this, he would save the tradition from total obliteration from humanity. Though he did express a certain amount of reservation in breaking his oaths, Regardie felt publication of previously secret material was for the common good of all. On this basis, he felt, or at least hoped, that his actions could be excused by the Higher.
Reputedly, he was later given honorary degrees of 6=5 and, posthumously, 7=4 by Pat Zalewski's Temple in New Zealand. At this point, no one is exactly sure of what grades Regardie attained or held during his magical tenure. In any case, it is true that Israel Regardie and his works have introduced many to the Golden Dawn tradition in modern times.