The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was initiated in 1888 with the founding of the Isis-Urania Temple in London. It combined many occult traditions in one single organisation and determined much of the structure of occultism throughout the 20th century in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the USA.

The basic structure was inherited from Rosicrucian Freemasonery. There was an initiatory progression of grades combined with standard instructional material ("knowledge lectures"). Members were expected to master the instructional material, and were invited to apply for initiation into the next grade when they were ready.

The initiatory grades were based on an ascent through the sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Thus the first grade of Zelator corresponded to the tenth sephira Malkut. There was an assumption that each grade represented a level of understanding/cognition/ability which was both broader and deeper than the previous grade. In this respect the members formed a graded hierarchy. As time progressed members claimed higher and higher grades, and this in turn formed a basis for competition, instability and fracture into splinter groups.

The teaching material was comprehensive, covering Kabbalah, divination techniques such as geomancy and Tarot, ritual magic (both theurgic and thaumaturgic techniques), meditation and visualisation, psychic self-defence, creation of magical implements, magical symbolism etc. Although somewhat eclectic, and much influenced by unexamined myths (for example, the origins of the Tarot and its symbolism), the Golden Dawn provides an accessible introduction to the worldview of classical antiquity. Its members and descendents have done much to popularise Kabbalah outside Judaism. There have been innumerable offshoots and influences, spreading as far popular witchcraft.

See also

Golden Dawn
S. L. Mathers
W. W. Westcott
A. E. Waite
W. B. Yeats
Aleister Crowley
Alan Bennet
Moina Mathers
Dion Fortune
W. E. Butler

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