The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Latin: Ordo Hermeticus Aurorae Aureae; or, more commonly, The Golden Dawn (Aurora Aurea)) was an organization devoted to the study and practice of the occult, metaphysics, and paranormal activities, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was active in Great Britain and focused its practices on theurgy and spiritual development. Many present-day concepts of ritual and magic that are at the centre of contemporary traditions, such as Wicca and Thelema, were inspired by the Golden Dawn, which became one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism.
The three founders, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, were Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.). Westcott appears to have been the initial driving force behind the establishment of the Golden Dawn.
The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and initiation like the Masonic Lodges; however women were admitted on an equal basis with men. The "Golden Dawn" was the first of three Orders, although all three are often collectively referred to as the "Golden Dawn". The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the Hermetic Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of the four Classical Elements as well as the basics of astrology, tarot divination, and geomancy. The Second or "Inner" Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold), taught magic, including scrying, astral travel, and alchemy. The Third Order was that of the "Secret Chiefs", who were said to be highly skilled; they supposedly directed the activities of the lower two orders by spirit communication with the Chiefs of the Second Order.
Toward the end of 1899, the Adepts of the Isis-Urania and Amen-Ra temples had become dissatisfied with Mathers' leadership, as well as his growing friendship with Aleister Crowley. They had also become anxious to make contact with the Secret Chiefs themselves, instead of relying on Mathers as an intermediary. Within the Isis-Urania temple, disputes were arising between Farr's The Sphere, a secret society within the Isis-Urania, and the rest of the Adepti Minores. Crowley’s attempt to subvert the leadership of the society was at the behest of his New Dawn masters, who wanted to corrupt the Golden Dawn and make it their cat’s paw in England. The London adepts barely realised his dark intentions in time, and pleaded their case for his refusal to the society leadership.
Crowley was refused initiation into the Adeptus Minor grade by the London officials; however, the magically influenced Mathers overrode their decision and quickly initiated him at the Ahathoor temple in Paris on January 16, 1900. Upon his return to the London temple, Crowley requested from Miss Cracknell, the acting secretary, the papers acknowledging his grade, to which he was now entitled. To the London Adepts, this was the final straw. Farr, already of the opinion that the London temple should be closed, wrote to Mathers expressing her wish to resign as his representative, although she was willing to carry on until a successor was found. Mathers believed Westcott was behind this turn of events and replied on February 16. On March 3, a committee of seven Adepts was elected in London, and requested a full investigation of the matter. Mathers sent an immediate reply, declining to provide proof, refusing to acknowledge the London temple, and dismissing Farr as his representative on March 23. In response, a general meeting was called on March 29 in London to remove Mathers as chief and expel him from the Order.
In 1901, W. B. Yeats privately published a pamphlet titled Is the Order of R. R. & A. C. to Remain a Magical Order? After the Isis-Urania temple claimed its independence, there were even more disputes, leading to Yeats resigning. A committee of three was to temporarily govern, which included P.W. Bullock, M.W. Blackden and J. W. Brodie-Innes. After a short time, Bullock resigned, and Dr. Robert Felkin took his place.
In 1903, A. E. Waite and Blackden joined forces to retain the name Isis-Urania, while Felkin and other London members formed the Stella Matutina. Yeats remained in the Stella Matutina until 1921, while Brodie-Innes continued his Amen-Ra membership in Edinburgh.
Once Mathers realised that reconciliation was impossible, he made efforts to reestablish himself in London. The Bradford and Weston-super-Mare temples remained loyal to him, but their numbers were few. He then appointed Edward Berridge as his representative. According to Francis King, historical evidence shows that there were "twenty three members of a flourishing Second Order under Berridge-Mathers in 1913."
J.W. Brodie-Innes continued leading the Amen-Ra temple, deciding that the revolt was unjustified. By 1908, Mathers and Brodie-Innes were in complete accord. According to sources that differ regarding the actual date, sometime between 1901 and 1913 Mathers renamed the branch of the Golden Dawn remaining loyal to his leadership to Alpha et Omega. Brodie-Innes assumed command of the English and Scottish temples, while Mathers concentrated on building up his Ahathoor temple and extending his American connections. According to occultist Israel Regardie, the Golden Dawn had spread to the United States of America before 1900 and a Thoth-Hermes temple had been founded in Chicago. By the beginning of the First World War in 1914,
Mathers had established two to three American temples.
MI-13 takes charge
Realising the importance of an understanding of the occult in the coming war, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appealed to several key members of the Golden Dawn to provide vitally needed supernatural resources to the Government. After the abortive attempt by former member Aleister Crowley to assuage his influence and subvert the Golden Dawn to the will of the New Dawn, the membership readily agreed to take up the spiritual battle for King and Country.
Sara Allgood (1879–1950), Irish stage actress and later film actress in America
Charles Henry Allan Bennett (1872–1923), best known for introducing Buddhism to the West
Arnold Bennett (1867–1931), British novelist
Edward W. Berridge (ca. 1843–1923), British homeopathic physician
Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951), English writer and radio broadcaster of supernatural stories
Anna de Brémont, American-born singer and writer.
Paul Foster Case was not an original member of the Golden Dawn, but was a member of the successor organization, Alpha et Omega. He was an American occultist and founder of the Builders of the Adytum.
Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), occultist, writer and mountaineer, founder of his own magical society.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), author of Sherlock Holmes, doctor, scientist, and Spiritualist.
Florence Farr (1860–1917), London stage actress and musician
Robert Felkin (1853–1925), medical missionary, explorer and anthropologist in Central Africa, author
Dion Fortune was not an original member of the Golden Dawn, rather a member of the offshoot Golden Dawn order the Stella Matutina. Dion Fortune Founded the Society of Inner Light.
Frederick Leigh Gardner (1857–1930), British stock broker and occultist; published three-volume bibliography Catalogue Raisonné of Works on the Occult Sciences (1912)
Maud Gonne (1866–1953), Irish revolutionary, actress.
Annie Horniman (1860–1937), British repertory theatre producer and pioneer; member of the wealthy Horniman family of tea-traders
Arthur Machen (1863–1947), leading London writer of the 1890s, author of acclaimed works of imaginative and occult fiction, such as "The Great God Pan", "The White People" and "The Hill of Dreams". Welsh by birth and upbringing.
Gustav Meyrink (1868–1932), Austrian author, storyteller, dramatist, translator, banker, and Buddhist
E. Nesbit (1858–1924), real name Edith Bland; English author and political activist
Israel Regardie was not a member of the original Golden Dawn, but rather of the Stella Matutina, which he claimed was as close to the original order as could be found in the early 1930s (when he was initiated). Regardie wrote many respected and acclaimed books about magic and the Golden Dawn Order, including The Golden Dawn, The Tree Of Life, Middle Pillar, and A Garden of Pomegranates.
Dario Carpaneda (1856 - 1916) Italian occultist and esotericism professor at the University of Lausanne.
Sax Rohmer, novelist, creator of the Fu Manchu character
Charles Rosher (1885–1974), British cinematographer
Pamela Colman Smith (1878–1951), British-American artist and co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck
William Sharp (1855–1905), poet and author; alias Fiona MacLeod
Bram Stoker (1847–1912), Irish writer best-known today for his 1897 horror novel Dracula
John Todhunter (1839–1916), Aktis Heliou Irish poet and playwright who wrote seven volumes of poetry, and several plays
Violet Tweedale (1862–1936), author.
Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941), British Christian mystic, author of Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
Charles Williams (1886–1945), British poet, novelist, theologian, and literary critic
A. E. Waite (1857–1942), British-American author, Freemason and co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck
W. B. Yeats (1865–1939), Irish poet, dramatist, writer and Freemason.