People that are new to the Golden Dawn tradition often
have many questions about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, 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 continuing evolution.
(Please note: This is not the Golden
Dawn FAQ found on the "alt.magick" newsgroup.)
1. What was the Hermetic Order of the Golden
"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 already at the beginning of the 20th Century due to copycats, a situation that in the 21st Century has grown acute with the advent of the Internet. There exist on the net today everything from traditional Golden Dawn orders to post-modern reconstructionists and even New Age and Thelemic orders calling themselves Golden Dawn.
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
1=10 - Zelator - Malkuth - Earth
2=9 - Theoricus - Yesod - Air
3=8 - Practicus - Hod - Water
4=7 - Philosophus - Netzach - Fire
Portal - Not depicted on the Tree of Life - Spirit
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?
No! The classical Golden Dawn system is concerned
with spiritual development, and its teachings are useful
to anyone of any faith. The Order, however, does not require
that members be of a particular religion, nor that they
become members of any religion after initiation.
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?
Absolutely not. The classical Golden Dawn system has embraced
people from a variety of different religious backgrounds.
As stated in the Neophyte oath, there is "nothing contrary
to your civil, moral or religious duties." Also, within
the same Neophyte ceremony, it is pointed out: "Remember
that you hold all religions in reverence." Students are
asked to think for themselves. An Order does not, and should not
embrace the weak-minded who are looking for a guru.
4. Was Alchemy Taught in the Order?
Alchemy forms much of the teachings of the Golden Dawn System.
In the Outer Order the principles of alchemy are introduced
and several alchemical texts are recommended for study. In
the higher grades of the Second Order, alchemy is not only
taught to those so inclined, but brought beyond the theoretical
and into the practical.
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
Secrecy is necessary in that individual rights and privacy
must at all times be maintained, especially since members
may work in sensitive environments where public knowledge
of their membership could cause problems.
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
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?
Yes. The traditional Golden Dawn System is practiced
by a number of different Orders today. See links
for a list of Orders suggested by the developers of the
Golden Dawn Research Center.
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
7. May I join the Order?
It is possible to become a member of the Order or one of
its offshoots. As a matter of fact, it is much easier to join
today. The extreme need for secrecy to keep from being discovered
by secular authorities is much less of a problem in present
times. There is still prejudices and hatred to this day for
anything "occult," but at least entire groups of people are
not being persecuted.
See links for a list of Orders
suggested by the developers of the Golden Dawn Research
8. What is expected of members of a classical
Golden Dawn order?
The only thing that is fully expected of anyone is to keep
the oath unto the Lord of the Universe and to fellow Fraters
and Sorors. The primary emphasis in the oath is to keep secret
the meetings of the Order, its working, its members, etc...
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.
8. Is the classical Golden Dawn connected
with the Rosicrucians?
We must distinguish between Rosicrucian organizations, such
as AMORC, and the Rosicrucians themselves. Golden Dawn Orders
are not connected with any other organization such as AMORC.
It is an outer school for an active Second Order that is a
mystical descendent of 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
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..
For more information on the Rosicrucians and the connection
to the Golden Dawn, read a document entitled, "The
Truth About the Cipher Manuscripts" available on the
Golden Dawn Home Page. This document illustrates a very
possible connection between the German Rosicrucians and
the Second Order Adepti of the historical Golden Dawn..
9. How was Aleister Crowley involved with
the Golden Dawn?
Aleister Crowley joined the London temple of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn in November of 1898 and advanced
through the grades quickly. In 1900, he applied to the Second
Order and was denied. Mathers, who was living in France at
the time, was furious because he was being denied due to his
sexual practices. Mathers felt the Order should never interfere
in someone's personal life or religion. Thus, Mathers invited
Crowley to come to Paris and receive his 5=6 initiation. This
was the straw that broke the camels back in regards to the
revolting Adepti in London.
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?
The Thelemic Golden Dawn is an Order that has taken the
traditional Golden Dawn system and has altered it to fit the
ideals of Aleister Crowley's Thelema. Thelemic currents of
energy and Golden Dawn currents are very different forces.
You might say that they are totally different paths. Most
of the rituals have been severely altered to conform to Crowley's
Thelema. This brand of Golden Dawn (without making a value
judgment on the worth of their teachings) should in no way
be confused or compared to the classical Golden Dawn system
as handed down by Mathers.
|11. Who was Israel
Francis Israel Regardie was a self-proclaimed Reichian therapist,
author and chiropractor by trade. He lived between the years
of 1907 and 1985. His magical experience began as a secretary
for Aleister Crowley. Subsequently, after he and Crowley had
a parting of the ways, he published, "A Garden of Pomegranates,"
which was later followed by other works such as "The Middle
Pillar" and "The Tree of Life."
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. This
letter, in Regardie's own words, emphasizes his feelings
on the subject.
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.