Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in Britain

Early History Lecture of the Golden Dawn
by V.H. Frater Sapere Aude
(Dr. William Wynn Westcott)


The Order of the G.D. in the Outer is a Hermetic Society whose members are taught the principles of Occult Science and the Magic of Hermes. During the early part of the second half of the 19th Century, several adepti and chiefs of this order in France and England died, and their deaths caused a temporarily dormant condition of Temple work. Prominent among these were Eliphas Levi, Ragon, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, author of the Masonic Encyclopedia and Frederick Hockley, possessed of crystal vision whose M.S.S. we highly esteemed. These and other adepti received their knowledge and power from predecessors of greater imminence and have handed down to us this doctrine and system of Theosophy and Hermetic Science of the Higher Alchemy from a series of practical investigations whose origin is traced to the Fratres Rosae Crucis of Germany, which association was founded by Christian Rosenkreuz about 1398.

He and the theologian, Valentin Andreä, have left us, in the works published about 1614, an account of the exoteric arrangements of the Rosicrucian Society. It seems likely it was Andreä who published in 1614 the Fama Fraternitatis , or Theory of the Society, which must have been derived from the old records of the pupils of Christian Rosenkreuz. But even this arrival of mysticism was a new development of the older wisdom of the Qabalistic Rabbis and of that very ancient secret knowledge of the magic of the Egyptians into which Moses had been initiated. Through the Qabalah, indeed, Europe became possessed of the ancient Wisdom more than from any one other source, for the Hebrews were taught at one time by the Egyptians and later by the Chaldees of Babylon.

It is a curious fact that the classic nations, the Greeks and Romans, have handed down to us but slight glimpses of the Ancient Magic and this is more notable because Greece succeeded to the mastership of Egypt and Rome to the Empire of both the Greeks and Jews. Greece did indeed succeed to a share in the mysteries of the Egyptians for the Eleusinian Mysteries were copies of the ancient ceremonies of Isis, Osiris and Serapis but they lacked true magic. And further, the classic writings contain but faint glimpses of even the Eleusinian Mysteries and these disclose the fact that the pupils were partly ignorant of the true mysteries, a notable example of which is seen in the use of the words Konx Om Pax, of which they knew not the meaning, the words being the Greek imitation or translation of really ancient Egyptian words, whose meanings has been kept secret for centuries. Hence the 0=0 Grade is found to possess Egyptian characteristics and symbolism and the Higher Grades will reveal the source of much of the culture and illustrate the language of Eliphas Levi, through whose adeptship the study of occultism has been popularized.

The First Order is a group of four grades, to which Neophytes are admissible when approved by the G.H. Chiefs after showing themselves possessed of sufficient aptitude and knowledge. Beyond the above, there are three grades of Adeptship forming the Second Order. These have the power of selecting Candidates, initiating students into the lower grades and their Chiefs have, in addition, the power of issuing warrants of Temples such as that of Isis Urania. But the highest of all in this ancient scheme are the Great Rulers of the whole system who severally sustain and govern the Third Order, which includes three Magic Titles of Honour and Supremacy. These represent the Supernal Triad of the Sephiroth and are shrouded and unapproachable to the profane and to all others but the Chiefs of the Adepts. In case of a vacancy in this Order, the Chief most learned Adept obtains by decree the well-earned award.

The scheme of the G.D., then, is formed upon the type of the Decad of the Sephiroth, the ten Emanations of Deity as figured in the Qabalah, whose professors were illuminated by the higher magic of the ancient world. The grades of the First Order will be found to be Hebrew in design and tendency and inasmuch as the influx of time brought on the revelation of the Christos, the Tiphareth, the Beauty of Microprosopos, Christian design is reflected in the higher degrees.

The Neophyte Grade and the 1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd and 4 th Grades, which this present Isis Urania Temple is authorized to confer after due examination and approval, posses rituals and secrets which have been received from the G.H. Chief adepts and these are placed in our hands to use in the tuition of pupils in the ancient methods of this Order. This Temple (Isis Urania) was consecrated as a successor to Hermanubis #2, which had ceased to exist owing to the death of all its Chiefs.

The Temple #1 of Licht, Liebe, Leben is a group of Continental mystics who have not been in the habit of performing ceremonies in open lodge, but have conferred the grades chiefly in privacy and in the presence of two or three members, so there is no accurate record of name and rank of all these members. Soon after the formation of Temple #3, permission was granted for the consecration of Osiris Temple #4 at Weston-Super-Mare under rule of V.H. Frater "Crux dat Salubrem" and the West of England has been assigned to him as a province. Almost at the same time, the Horus Temple #5 under the rule of V.H. Fratre "Vote Vita Mea" was also consecrated at Bradford in Yorkshire. These three Temples have members also in the United States, Hindustan, Palestine, Denmark, etc.

The name of the Order in various languages is: In Hebrew: Morning Light Shining Society (Chabrath (or Chaorah) Zoreh Aour Bakker) which means The Society of the Shining Light of Dawn. In Latin: Aurora. In German: Die Goldene Dämmerung. In French: L'Aube Dorée.

Reference may now be made to the Society which was reconstructed by Robert Wentworth Little, student of the mysteries. This Society, which has branches in England, Scotland and the United States, is allied with the G.D. It perpetuated one form of Rosicrucian initiation which was conferred 100 years ago in England and which was mentioned by Godfrey Higgins in his work The Anacalypsis, an Attempt to Withdraw the Veil of the Saitic Isis . Fratre Little was a student of the school of Levi and also an eminent Freemason and the Rosicrucian Society as revised by him was made by intention and permission essentially masonic, thus severing all connection with those Adepts who have not been Craftsmen, as Basil Valentine, Artephus, Nicolas Flamel, Jacob Boehme and Robert Fludd. The Rosicrucian Society in the same manner fails to recognize any worth for occult research in women. This is also an innovation of the scheme of the Ancient Mysteries in many of which, notably those of Isis priestesses and virgin prophetesses, were prominent ministers.

Note specifically, that there are several instances in the ancient M.S.S. of our Order, which are written in cypher, where reference is made to the fratres and sorores, the words "her or him" occur showing that in olden time, as at the present day, women rose to high rank and attainment in the secret knowledge of the Order. Mention may be suitably made to Pernelle, the wife and fellow-worker of Nicolas Flamel, of Martine Berthereau, companion of Baron Jean de Chatelet who died about 1645 and of the widow lady afterwards symbolized by him as Sophia (Heavenly Wisdom), fellow student and inspirer of John Georg Gichtel who died about 1700. The occultists of today cannot need to be reminded of the great Hermetists and Theosophists of recent times: of D. Anna Kingsford, who was indeed illuminated by the Sun of Light; of Madame Blavatsky, leader of the T.S. No occult student, however wide apart his own favored path of wisdom, could fail to recognize in her a mastermind in a woman's frame.

I cannot fail to express the lament which followed the passing of D. William Robert Woodman, for many years known as the supreme Magus of the Society Ros. in Anglia, which is exoteric in its outer grades but whose concerns are regulated by an inner circle of adepti who still hold the secrets of the R.:. C.:. and its masonic society. The eastern school of Theosophy and Occultism and our own Hermetic Society of the G.D. are fraternities of students whose predecessors must have come from the same stock of magi as the scientific priests of a remote antiquity. The two Societies, different in modes of teaching and in language, are allied by mutual understanding and respect, and their aim is similar. Be assured that the Order of the G.D. can show the way to much secret knowledge and spiritual progress and lead true and patient students who can Will, Dare, Learn and Be Silent to the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom, and Perfect Happiness.