The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in Britain in the 19th century by the occultists Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers, William Robert Woodman and William Wynn Westcott. S.L. Mathers was primarily responsible for the rituals, which incorporated elements of John Dee’s system of Enochian magic. Samuel L. Mathers was also a member of the Hermetic Society (H.S.), the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, and a high degree Freemason. The Order offered teachings on alchemy, Rosicrucianism, symbols, astrology, Kabbalah, and Hermetics. It was one of the first hermetic orders in which both men and women could follow a path of initiation. After several scandals and splits, the Order continued under the name Alpha et Omega from 1900 to 1940, operating through temples in England, France, and the United States. There was also a branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in Australia for many years. Finally, the Order of the Golden Dawn was finally closed.
Individual members of various degrees established new lodges without authorization. Other members of the Order and its successor organizations included Arnold Bennett, Aleister Crowley, Arthur Edward Waite, Florence Farr, Robert Felkin, Dion Fortune (Violet Mary Firth), Annie Horniman, Arthur Machen, William Sharp, Pamela Colman Smith, and W. B. Yeats. Many of the successor orders and lodges lacked the true teachings and “inner” contacts. Some of these successor orders included The Fellowship of the Golden Dawn, Collegium Spiritu Sancti Golden Dawn, The Ordo Stella Matutina Sodalitas Rosae+Crucis et Solis Alati, Orden Hermética de la Aurora Dorada, Ordem Esotérica da Aurora Dourada no Brasil, Fraternity of the Hidden Light, Builders of the Adytum, Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn August, and Order of the Mystic Rose Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer, some of which either lacked authorization or had incomplete teachings. Even the teachings of the Golden Dawn itself were rudimentary, covering only low-level aspects of the path of initiation.
After a rogue member of a successor organization, Israel Regardie, published some of the order’s rituals and instructions, which contained numerous flaws and errors, many unauthorized individuals followed these publications and established their own orders. Even in modern times, misled individuals continue to found new orders based on these amateurish publications about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, thus perpetuating this inadequate mystical doctrine.
In the USA, Michael Whitty served as Praemonstrator of the Toth-Hermes Lodge Alpha et Omega. He founded the esoteric magazine AZOTH in New York and was an influential figure in the Theosophical Society (TG). Together with another member of the Golden Dawn, the occultist Paul Foster Case, Michael Whitty founded the “School of Ageless Wisdom” and published assignments of the Tarot Keys in Azoth Magazine. Paul F. Case gathered extensive knowledge about the Tarot. Together with P.F. Case, Michael Whitty founded the Builders of the Adytum School. Because Case did not have true access to the highest degrees of initiation and instruction, his system of initiation remained deficient and contained numerous errors. Nevertheless, his external school flourished, making misleading promises about the “inner contact” and the initiation system of the Order.
The main founder of the Golden Dawn, William W. Westcott, was a physician, author, Freemason, Rosicrucian and Theosophist. He held the highest position of Supreme Magus in the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) and also lectured in the Hermetic Society. Westcott translated from the Hebrew the Kabbalistic book Sepher Yezirah and works by Eliphas Levi. W. W. Westcott also wrote on astrology, numerology, talismans, alchemy, occultism, and theosophy.
Today, as in the past, the Western mystical tradition works with the tool of hermetic ritual work. The subconscious patterns of illusion are to be replaced by those of reality through the power of ritual. The deception lies in the belief that we are separate from the Creator and other beings. The ritual is meant to be a moving visual representation. By intellectually understanding our true identity and maintaining a receptive state during the ritual, these changes can be achieved. As a result, a new being is born.
During an initiation, power is transferred to the student. As individuals, we enter a kind of alchemically “preheated” space, similar to a laboratory, where we are attuned to new vibrations. This is similar to tuning into a television channel. The set will only receive the channel to which it is tuned. During the rite of passage, the receptivity to that vibration increases, allowing our vehicle to receive other channels that are more in tune with reality. Transformation occurs through symbols and invocations of the higher aspects of these elements. Each stage of initiation lasts from several months to a year. During this time, the student studies, meditates, and performs simple rituals to harmonize the Elements. An authentic Mystery School can be recognized by the presence of an intact ladder of initiation on all levels of the Tree of Life, where no stage can be skipped. The maturity of the aspirant’s soul determines the pace.
The Hermetic Academy is an authentic bearer of the Hermetic tradition, preserving the tools and teachings of the Western mystical tradition.