Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

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The Hermetic Rose Cross of the Golden Dawn

The Order of the Golden Dawn , better known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn ( Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, short: Golden Dawn ) was a magical discreet society . It was founded in England on February 12, 1888 by William Robert Woodman , Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and William Wynn Westcott . On March 1, 1888, the Isis-Urania Temple No. 3 in London . The order existed until 1900/1903 and then disintegrated into various successor organizations due to internal disputes.

Well-known members of the order included Aleister Crowley , Arthur Make , Pamela Colman Smith , Arthur Edward Waite and William Butler Yeats .

In contrast to the Theosophical Society , which increasingly oriented itself towards Eastern wisdom, the Golden Dawn saw itself as a continuation of the Western mysteries , especially the tradition of the Rosicrucians . As an esoteric working order , it became the prototype of similar organizations. Many of the modern magical or esoteric currents such as Wicca and Thelema can be traced back to this order.


All three founders - Westcott, Woodman, and Mathers - were both Freemasons and Rosicrucians of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia . Westcott and Mathers were also members of the Hermetic Society in London founded by Anna Kingsford .

The cipher manuscript

Cipher Manuscript fol. 47

The foundations of the teachings of the Golden Dawn were taken from the so-called Cipher Manuscript, which, according to the legend of the order, is said to have been discovered by AFA Woodford under obscure circumstances. It was written in an alphabet similar to a traditional cipher from Abbot Trithemius , and could therefore be deciphered by Westcott. The manuscript contains in sketched form five initiation rituals, as well as corresponding teaching material, including a. the previously secret assignments of the tarot to the Hebrew letters . Furthermore, the contact address of a certain Soror Sapiens Dominabitur Astris (Anna Sprengel), a high adept of the Rosicrucians from Germany, is said to have been on one of the pages . William Wynn Westcott claims to have given her permission to found the Golden Dawn in the Outer (the outer order of the Golden Dawn). Finally, Westcott commissioned Mathers to develop the ritual sketches into workable rituals.


The opening of the Isis-Urania Temple No.3 in London in March 1888 was followed in the same year by the establishment of the Osiris Temple No.4 in Weston-super-Mare (Somerset) and the Horus Temple No.5 in Bradford (Yorkshire). It was not until 1893, at the request of some Scottish members, that Amen-Ra Temple No.6 was opened in Edinburgh , followed by the inauguration of Ahathoor Temple No.7 in Paris in January 1894.

Initially, only five degrees were ritually processed, which in their totality formed the outer or first order . In addition to the ritual work, only basic theoretical knowledge about Kabbalah , astrology , tarot and alchemy was imparted. The only exception was the small pentagram ritual , which was taught so that the student could get a first impression of the invisible forces and their control.

Until December 1891, the second or inner order , which was supposed to include the adept degrees, existed only administratively, as there were no corresponding initiation rituals. Only the so-called portal degree was created, which acted as a link between the outer and inner orders.

Red rose and gold cross

It was up to Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers to create this second or inner order , the actual magical order, the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (Order of the Red Rose and the Golden Cross), also known as RR et AC for short . In the autumn of 1891 Mathers declared that he had made contact with the secret superiors , the members of the inner or third order, in Paris . He claims to have received further instructions for the establishment of the second order from a brother LET (Lux e tenebris) . He then created the central initiation ritual of the order, that of the Adeptus Minor Grades . For this purpose, the finding of the hidden grave of Christian Rosencreutz described in the Fama Fraternitatis is implemented ritually. The vault of the adepts is specially constructed, an accessible seven-sided initiation chamber. This vault is considered a reflection of the universe, among other things, its colored painted sides correspond to the seven planets. Inside is the so-called pastos, a sarcophagus in which the chief adept will lie during the ritual to embody the founder of the order Christian Rosencreutz. It was Annie Horniman who first went through the new Adeptus Minor ritual in December 1891.

Westcott was primarily responsible for the teaching content of the outer order, Mathers wrote almost all important instructions and textbooks of the second order. Immediately after initiation, the neophyte Adeptus Minor had to work through a catalog of instructions and textbooks. He had to manufacture and consecrate various magical objects, including the four "elemental weapons " staff, chalice, dagger and pantacle . Another frequently practiced technique was the so-called Traveling in the Spirit Vision , a method comparable to active imagination . More advanced documents dealing among other things with the early modern system of Enochian angel magic of John Dee . In addition to the official textbooks, the so-called Flying Rolls , treatises and field reports written by more advanced members also circulated among the members of the Inner Order .

Internal disputes

After the death of William Robert Woodman in December 1891, whose function was not replaced, there was an underlying rivalry between Mathers and Westcott, which in 1897 finally withdrew entirely from all administrative leadership positions in the Order. Mathers, who had lived mainly in Paris since May 1892 and directed the order from a distance, then appointed Florence Farr as its representative in England. This provoked some arguments as some male members refused to submit to female leadership. In addition, Mathers' authoritarian and at the same time inconsistent leadership style led to various disputes. So was u. a. Annie Hornimann was excluded from the order in December 1896 for lack of subordination because of her persistent criticism.

Rebellion and independence

The disputes reached a climax in early 1900, when the London adepts refused to accept the eccentric Aleister Crowley into the Inner Order . In a personal letter to his friend Isabella Augusta Gregory , William Butler Yeats mentioned the reasons Crowley was rejected: he said that a mystical society is not a reformatory , after all . Crowley then traveled to Paris to be initiated by Mathers himself into the degree of Adeptus Minor , but this was not recognized by the London adepts. Florence Farr got tired of Mathers' behavior and offered to resign. However, he did not want to go into it, as he suspected an intrigue behind it to bring Westcott back to the top. In a personal letter to Farr, he claimed:

  • Westcott had never been in contact with the secret superiors of the Order, either personally or by letter. He either forged the correspondence or had it forged.
  • All order material, both of the inner and the outer order, came from him alone.
  • Only he is in contact with the secret superiors of the Third Order .

This led to the open uproar of the London adepts, who set up a seven-member committee to examine these statements for their veracity. However, Westcott refused to comment on the allegations. After Mathers was not ready to appear in London before a committee that he did not approve in any way, he was released from his office, which amounted to an open rebellion.

On April 17th, Crowley, on behalf of Mathers, broke into the premises of the Second Order and had the locks replaced in order to obtain the Adepts' vaults and other materials. However, Yeats and other members of the Inner Order were able to prevent this through legal action. Mathers and Crowley were expelled from the Order, making the split final. Annie Hornimann was rehabilitated and made secretary to reorganize all material in the Order.

A few months later, Edward Berridge gathered the few adepts still loyal to Mathers and founded the Temple of Isis No.11 in London, which later became the Alpha et Omega Temple No.1 .


At a meeting of the Inner Order on May 3, 1902, Percy Bullock, Robert William Felkin, and John William Brodie-Innes were sustained as the presiding triad for one year. As a result, the outer order was renamed the Hermetic Society of the MR , where MR stands for "Morgenröthe". However, the attempt to put the leadership permanently on a democratic basis failed due to the different interests of the members. In 1903 John William Brodie-Innes tried to enforce his claim to leadership, but failed because of Arthur Edward Waite and his faction. Despite several meetings, it was not possible to agree on a leading triad.

Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn

In this situation Waite and his faction took over the vault of the adepts of Isis-Urania No.3 and on November 7, 1903 they constituted the Independent and Rectified Order RR et AC as the inner order of the Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn . Waite and his faction preferred the mystical orientation of the order and subjected all rituals to an extensive revision. The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross emerged from the Independent and Rectified Rite in 1916 .

Stella Matutina

The majority of the remaining, more magically oriented, members then founded the Amon Temple under Felkin and Brodie-Innes , which became the main temple of the Stella Matutina. The Stella Matutina also subjected the rituals of the original Golden Dawn to extensive revisions, which were thereby significantly improved and expanded.

In the following years Brodie-Innes tried to revive the fallen Amen Ra Temple No.6 in Edinburgh. He secretly contacted Mathers, with whom he was reconciled, and eventually switched to Alpha et Omega .

Course content

The earth pantacle, one of the four "elemental weapons"

The teaching content of the Golden Dawn consisted of numerous occult and mystical traditions, such as Kabbalah and Tarot , astrology , alchemy and the Enochian magic Dees as well as magical work with the gods of ancient Egypt and Greece. Elements of Christianity and Judaism were integrated syncretistically . The degree system was initially divided into nine, later into eleven degrees, which are related to the Kabbalistic ten Sephiroth . Many occult organizations today use Golden Dawn study materials. For example in some Wicca cult groups his pentagram rituals are used, which are unchanged from the Golden Dawn.

Successor organizations to the Golden Dawn

  • Independent and Rectifide Rite of the Golden Dawn (from 1903 to 1914, Waite)
  • Alpha et Omega (from 1903 to approx. 1940, Mathers)
  • Stella Matutina (from 1903 to 1978, Felkin)

Organizations created by Golden Dawn members

Groups working in the tradition of the Golden Dawn

  • Temple of Light, Love and Life (EOGD major temple of the EOGD of Europe, Zurich)
  • Hermetic Order of the Temple of Starlight, Netherlands
  • Hermetic Order of the Rising Dawn® (HOAM), outer order of SeR + CFT
  • Fraternity of the Hidden Light, Fraternitas LVX Occulta (FLO)
  • Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD®), Outer Order of Alpha et Omega®; with trademark protection for the name Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the European Union and Canada
  • Servants of the Light (SOL)
  • Society of the Inner Light; formerly Fraternity of the Inner Light
  • Splendor Lucis, an order based in Switzerland working in the tradition of the Golden Dawn


  • The Order of the Golden Dawn was integrated into the computer game Wolfenstein (2009) as an occult research group investigating the Thule parallel world and at the same time as a resistance movement against the Third Reich , although no parallels in terms of time or content can be proven.

Individual evidence

  1. The original name, as it is also on the charter, was actually Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer , see: Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn , p. 18.
  2. The name Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn first became popular through Israel Regardie and its publications. Although the addition Esoteric or Hermetic can be found in some letterheads or textbooks, Golden Dawn in the Outer was the official name. Nick Farrell: King over the Water , p. 17.
  3. a b For the exact founding and opening date see: Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation , Albany 2007, p. 125.
  4. See: Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn , p. 18.
  5. The complete membership lists were published in 1986 by R. A. Gilbert in The Golden Dawn Companion .
  6. ^ Adolphus Frederick Alexander Woodford (1821–1887) was a member of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, a Masonic research lodge, and a friend of Westcott. Although he died as early as 1887, he is often confused with Woodman because of his similarity of names and incorrectly referred to as one of the three founders. So swapped z. B. Hans-Dieter Leuenberger in his introduction to the German edition of Regardies The Magic System of the Golden Dawn Woodford's first name, to which he assigns the initials of Woodman; P. 42.
  7. The Cipher Manuscript was published by Darcy Küntz in: The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript 1996. An online version can be found here.
  8. From Cipher to Enigma: The Role of William Wynn Westcott in the Creation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in: Carroll Runyon, Secrets of the Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript , 1997, pp. 209-211.
  9. The Structure and Administration of the Order, p. 30ff in: The Golden Dawn Companion by RA Gilbert.
  10. An example of these items, u. a. Dagger, staff and pantacle, as made by William Butler Yeats, can be viewed in the online exhibition of the National Library of Ireland in the display case "The Celic Mystic".
  11. Online versions of the Flying Rolls are among others. a. under and here ( Memento of the original from October 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. to find. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.goldendawnpedia.com
  12. George Mills Harper: Yeats' Golden Dawn , 1987, p. 29.
  13. ^ RA Gilbert: The Golden Dawn - Twilight of the Magicans : p. 41, quoted from Ellic Howe: Magicans of the Golden Dawn , p. 210.
  14. The Battle at Blythe Road see Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn , 219ff
  15. Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn , S. 242nd
  16. ^ Constitution of the RR et AC in: RA Gilbert, The Golden Dawn - Twilight of the Magicans , pp. 138ff
  17. See e.g. B. the revision of the neophyte ritual in: RA Gilbert, The Golden Dawn - Twilight of the Magicans , p. 105ff
  18. ^ Nick Farrell: Mathers' Last Secret ; P. 337ff




  • Chic and Tabatha Cicero: The Essential Golden Dawn. 2003, ISBN 0-7387-0310-9 .
  • Nick Farrell: King Over the Water - Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn. 2012.
  • Nick Farrell: Mathers Last Secret . 2011.
  • RA Gilbert: The Golden Dawn- Twilight of the Magicians . 1983.
  • RA Gilbert: The Golden Dawn Companion . 1986.
  • Ellic Howe : The Magicians of the Golden Dawn . 1972.
  • Darcy Küntz: The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript 1996.
  • Israel Regardie: The Golden Dawn 1937–1940 (four volumes of GD rituals )
  • Israel Regardie: What You Should Know About The Golden Dawn . 1987.
  • RG Torrens: The Secret Rituals of the Golden Dawn. Wellingborough 1973.
  • Pat Zalewski : Talismans & Evocations of the Golden Dawn . 2002.

Web links

Groups working in the tradition of the Golden Dawn