New Light

Nevill Drury

in Stealing Fire from Heaven

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199750993
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894871 | DOI:
New Light

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The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in England in 1888 and has strongly influenced contemporary Western magical beliefs and practices. The rituals of the order were based originally on five Masonic grades discovered in the papers of a deceased English Rosicrucian. One of the co-founders, Dr. Wynn Westcott, who was himself a Freemason, asked his colleague Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers to expand the material to form a more complete occult system. Mathers worked on the formation of a new body of rituals and chose as his basis the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, using its ten sephiroth (or levels of consciousness) as the basis of different ceremonial grades. Westcott, Mathers, and another occultist, Dr. William Woodman, appointed themselves the heads of the Second Order of the Golden Dawn (known as the “Red Rose and the Cross of Gold”—Rosae Rubae et Aurea Crucis). The first Golden Dawn temple, Isis-Urania, opened in London in 1888. By 1896 there were also temples in Weston-Super-Mare, Bradford, Edinburgh, and Paris. In a break with Masonic tradition, all of the Golden Dawn temples admitted both men and women. The Golden Dawn attracted many well-known figures, including the distinguished Irish poet William Butler Yeats; A. E. Waite, originator of the popular Rider Tarot pack and the leading occult scholar of his day; and Aleister Crowley, the famous, and later notorious, “Great Beast 666.” Well-known female members included Maud Gonne, Florence Farr, Moina Bergson, and Violet Firth—later known as Dion Fortune. As MacGregor Mathers became increasingly autocratic in his relationships with fellow members, the order began to fragment, and following Mathers’ death in 1918, the original Golden Dawn splintered completely. However, other derivative groups emerged, including the Stella Matutina (Morning Star). Between 1937 and 1941, Israel Regardie, a one-time secretary to Aleister Crowley, published the complete rituals of the Stella Matutina in four volumes under the title The Golden Dawn. These books constitute the most complete magical system produced in modern times.

Keywords: Golden Dawn; Dr. Wynn Westcott; Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers; Dr. William Woodman; Rider Tarot; Stella Matutina

Chapter.  11863 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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