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The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its members and related bodies

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GBR 1991 GD
Held at: Museum of Freemasonry
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Full title: The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its members and related bodies
Date(s): [1865]-2000 [The bulk of the collection falls within the dates 1887-1923]
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 19 boxes of files and items including: 48 printed books, and regalia and working tools. Also 1 box of outsize items, 6 g
Name of creator(s): The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its members and related bodies


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888 by Dr William Wynn Westcott, Dr William Robert Woodman and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, who were all Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A).

The Order was based on the rituals and knowledge lectures found in the Cipher Documents. [A series of encrypted documents containing outlines for a series of initiation rituals, see GBR 1991 GD 1/1/1-8]. Although the history and authenticity of these documents is subject to considerable debate, in general it is now agreed that they were written by Kenneth Mackenzie as outline rituals for the Society of Eight [a Golden Dawn prototype body founded by Frederick Holland in 1883 but which never developed into a membership body] or the Sat B'hai [This order, founded around 1871 by Captain J H Lawrence-Archer, using some Hindu terminology within a framework derived from masonry, had little more than a paper existence until 1875, when Mackenzie joined]. Westcott acquired these papers after Mackenzie's death, and set about transferring them into full grade rituals.

An additional paper found within the cipher documents contained the address of a woman in Germany, referred to as Fraulein Sprengel. Described as being an Adept of an occult order known as the Die Goldene Dammerung, Westcott asserted that Sprengel had authorized him in a series of letters to sign documents under her name and had granted him permission to set up a Temple in England. Researchers now believe that Westcott created this story in order to give the Golden Dawn a legitimate provenance and to attract serious occultists and freemasons to his new Order. The Order grew steadily and by the end of 1888 three temples had been set up, namely Isis-Urania in London, Osiris in Weston-Super-Mare and Horus in Bradford.

From 1888 to 1891 the Golden Dawn functioned as a theoretical school, performing the initiation ceremonies of the Outer Order from the 0°=0° Neophyte grade to the 4°=7° Philosophus grade and teaching the basics of the Qabalah, astrology, alchemical symbolism, geomancy and tarot. No practical magic was performed until 1891, when Mathers completed the ritual for the 5°=6° grade, the first grade of the Secord or Inner Order of the Golden Dawn, known as the Order of the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold). By this time Woodman had died and as a replacement was not appointed, Mathers managed to reconstruct the Order, becoming its primary Chief.

The new 5=6 ritual was based on the legend of Christian Rosenkreuz, a great spiritual teacher who was secretly buried and later found perfectly preserved within a seven sided tomb. Mathers and his wife, Moina (nee Mina Bergson), created an elaborate full-size replica of his tomb, referred to as the Vault of the Adepts, which members of the Inner Order used when performing the rituals. The Inner Order transferred theory into practice, with members making and consecrating their own magical implements. Mathers also created a formal curriculum, which included guidance on scrying, astral travel, and alchemy and a series of eight graded examinations which lead to members achieving the sub-grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor.

In 1895 the stability of the Order was threatened by the breakdown of the relationship between Mathers and Annie Horniman. This lead to her expulsion and increasing unrest among the Second Order Adepts in London. In 1897 further problems arose when civil authorities became aware of Westcott's link with the group, forcing him to resign in order to keep his position as Coroner for North East London. Florence Farr assumed Westcott's role but without his administrative supervision of the paperwork, the decline in grade work and examination system undertaken by members led the Order to decline in London.

By 1900 Mathers' domineering behaviour led to Farr suggesting that the Order should be dissolved. Fearing this was an attempt to replace him with Westcott, Mathers wrote to Farr stating that the Sprengel letters had been forged by Westcott. As Westcott declined to defend himself this shook the trust of London members in particular, leading to open rebellion after Mathers initiated Aleister Crowley, who had been refused admission as a member in the London Temple. A committee was set up to investigate Mathers' claims which led to the expulsion of Mathers, Moina Mathers, Crowley and other supporters in May 1900, despite Mathers sending Crowley as his envoy to London in an attempt to take possession of the Inner Order headquarters at 36 Blythe Road, London (subsequently referred to as the Battle of Blythe Road).

Those remaining loyal to Mathers formed a rival Isis Temple, headed by Mathers and run by Dr E. Berridge. This was later known as Alpha and Omega 1. The Paris Temple and later Amen-Ra in Edinburgh, under John W. Brodie-Innes also became part of Mathers' Alpha and Omega Order.

After Mathers' displacement, William Butler Yeats resumed responsibility for the Temple in London. Further trouble was caused by the newly reinstated Annie Horniman, who led disputes over the forgotten examination system and Farr's splinter organisation, known as the Sphere Group. A further blow came in 1901 following unwanted publicity as a result of the Horos case. An American couple, Frank and Editha Jackson, also known as Theo and Laura Horos, used the rituals, which they had duped Mathers into handing over to them in Paris, to set up their own order in London, known as the Order of Theocratic Unity. They defrauded and raped several young women persuaded to join this Order and the subsequent court case lead to the exposure of many Golden Dawn secrets in the press. Editha Jackson was also known as the Swami Vive Ananda and assumed various other names, including Anne O'Delia Diss De Bar but was born into a respectable Kentucky family, the Salomons, during a criminal career as a spiritualist and extortionist in New York and New Orleans, America. As a result of this Case, leading to the imprisonment of the American couple in London, many members left in order to distance themselves from the Golden Dawn. Remaining members changed the Order's name to the Hermetic Society of the Morgenröthe.

In 1903 a further schism occurred within the Order. Arthur Edward Waite took over the remnant of the original Isis-Urania Temple, which became known as the Independent and Rectified Rite. Waite's new Order moved away from the ritual magic present in the old Order, replacing it with a more mystical path. This Order existed until 1914 when internal disputes led to Waite closing the Temple and forming the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross the following year. This continued to exist until Waite's death in 1942.

Those members who preferred the rituals and magic developed by Mathers joined Dr Robert Felkin in his new organisation known as the Stella Matutina. Their temple, based in London was named Amoun. After lengthy negotiations, Felkin signed a concordat with Waite in 1907 to govern the relationship between the two Temples, but this agreement only lasted until 1910.

Once he became Chief, Dr Felkin communicated with several mystical individuals including the discarnate Arab teacher, Ara Ben Shemesh and the Sun Masters. Increasingly, Felkin became interested in establishing new links with the 'Secret Chiefs' and the original Rosicrucian societies in Germany, with which Westcott had claimed to have had links. Felkin's quest led him on several continental trips where he met Ruldolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian philosopher and esotericist, and claimed to have been given higher grades, the equivalent to 8=3 and 7=4 grades. Felkin also corresponded with Anne Sprengel, a patient of his, whom he claimed was the niece of Fraülein Sprengel.

While travelling in New Zealand with his family in 1912, Felkin founded a new Temple, Smaragdum Thalasses, at Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Before his relocation to New Zealand in 1916, Felkin issued a new constitution for Stella Matutina, which included details for three daughter temples for Amoun, namely Hermes Temple, Bristol (which became independent in the early 1920's and survived until c. 1972); The Secret College, London, which was to be 'confined to members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, who have taken at least Grade 4' (this college was active in 1921 but may not have survived long beyond this date0; and finally Merlin Temple, perhaps located in London but not established successfully, which was to consist of former members of Waite's group or the Anthroposophical Society.

After Felkin's departure, the Order in London came under the control of Christina Stoddart. She became increasingly paranoid and obsessed with details about the Order's origins. After working on her paper 'Investigations into the Foundations of the Order G.D. and R.R. et A.C. and the Source of its Teachings' for four years, she concluded that the whole Order was evil. Stoddart's attitude, further internal disputes and bad publicity in the press led to the closure of the Amoun Temple, London, in the early 1920's. By 1923 a significant quantity of the Order's papers had been given by Stoddart to a colleague for safekeeping.


Scope and content/abstract:

Contains records of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its constituent and successor bodies and other related bodies [including Alpha et Omega, Stella Matutina, Independent and Rectified Rite, Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, Sphere Group, the Order of Great Osiris the Saviour, The Theosophical Society and others]. The collection includes the original cipher manuscripts, later translations of the ciphers, additional ciphers, the 'Sprengel' letters with translations from the German; ritual and instructional texts for both the Inner and Outer Orders in the Golden Dawn and its associated bodies, including ritual grade books, temple diagrams, Flying Rolls, lectures; National and Local administration and membership records including registers, address books, minutes, receipt and undertaking forms, Inner Order diaries, pledge forms, by-laws, circulars, correspondence and ephemera; personal correspondence of several prominent members including Florence Farr, Dr W Wynn Westcott, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Annie Honiman, Dr Robert Felkin and Christina Stoddart; case files relating to significant events within the Order's history including the expulsion of Annie Horniman, the 'Battle of Blyth Road, the Horos Case, the expulsion of Mathers, the division of the Order, the concordat between the Stella Matutina and the Independent and Rectified Rite, the Court Case between Mathers and Aleister Crowley over the publication of rituals in the Equinox, Felkin's continental investigations and the Stella Matutina's new constitution and daughter temples; regalia and artefacts including Rose Cross Lamens worn by the Inner Order members, Enochian chess boards, a Lotus wand, Westcott's ring and a disk used for divination, Enochian tablets, an earth pentacle, officers' wands, a replica of the Inner Order Vault; photographs, designs and diagrams including temple diagrams and designs used in the vault, including the Garden of Eden before and after the fall of man, the colour scales, the minutum mundum; photographs including a picture of S. L. MacGregor Mathers; printed texts relating to the order, including works by R.A. Gilbert, Israel Regardie and E Howe, and Robert Gilbert's research papers.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English; Cipher; German; Hebrew; Coptic and Enochian

System of arrangement:

This collection has no original order. An order has been imposed by the archivist, which reflects the history of the creating and successor bodies and their functions. The fonds has been divided into 10 sub-fonds: namely Texts principle in founding the Order, The Golden Dawn in the First [Outer] Order and the Second [Inner] Order named the Rosea Rubeae et Aureae Cruis [R.R.A.C], Alpha et Omega, Stella Matutina, Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn, Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, other groups, regalia and artefacts, photographs, designs and diagrams, printed texts and Robert Gilbert's research papers.

Members of the Golden Dawn and related bodies adopted pseudonyms, known as mottos. These were mainly written in Latin, but other languages such as French, Greek and Welsh are also used. To assist researchers, the title statement field always includes the name of an individual but the scope and content descriptions employ mottos. This has led to some repetition but has helped produce consistent and clear descriptions. A database of mottos used by individual members is available from the Archivist.

Square brackets have been used within catalogue entries when explanatory details or additional text, not present in the original text of the document, has been added by the archivist. For example, this includes details of the persons name when only their motto has been used in the text. Square brackets have also been used to confirm the name of a creator, when a document is unsigned and the creator has been identified by the archivist from the context of the document or from its handwriting. Descriptions within this collection have been described in full, mainly at item level; this has been done for control purposes and in order to assist researchers.

Conditions governing access:

Most material is open for research (subject to conservation requirements and the production of a valid Library and Museum of Freemasonry Reader Registration Ticket. For further details of obtaining a ticket please see Prior booking is required, as 48 hours notice must be provided when ordering material for research. Some archives in this collection are subject to restricted access periods, with access conditions specified at the series level catalogue record.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No reproductions to be made without the prior permission of the Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry and in conjunction with the Photography Policy observed by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

Finding aids:

Fully catalogued on-line. A hard copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation in the Library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Material within the collection is derived from two main sources. The first group represents material deposited with the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in the 1920's by a private individual. This collection [identified as Private Collection A] was used by researchers for many books [including E Howe, Magicians of the Golden Dawn, published in 1972], and the original order has been dispersed. Further material was purchased from a private collection in 2008 with the assistance of the MLA/V and A Purchase Grant Fund. As the original context and order for both groups was lost, the archivist responsible for cataloguing the collection devised a cataloguing scheme. In order to retain the provenance of these archives, a note has been added to each item or file entry stating whether that part of the archive collection derived from the Library and Museum's original collection (Private Collection A) deposited in the 1920's or forms part of the archives acquired in 2008.

Immediate source of acquisition:

See Archival history

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Library and Museum holds other items relating to the Golden Dawn and its associated bodies within its Library collection - search using the call number BE 699 (GOL). Please contact the Librarian for details about additional material within the Library's ritual collection.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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