The Esoteric Order of The Golden Dawn was a school of magic, founded during the late nineteenth century, one vowing to reveal all manner of occult knowledge to its members. Celebrated among these were Florence Farr, W.B Yeats, Charles Williams, A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith. Its figurehead, the autocratic Samuel MacGregor Mathers, inaugurated ceremonies that melded Christian Mysticism, the Qabalah and Hermeticism. Such a potent brew would eventually ensure that the Golden Dawn would burst asunder in an esoteric apocalypse.
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This is the story of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn inaugurated in 1888 more or less dissolving 15 years later through internal politics. The author observes that the question asked of the initiate ‘why do you seek?’ has only one acceptable answer, ‘I seek in order to serve’, an adage as true today as ever when it comes to power. The 1890s were an exciting period in esoteric history, and the Golden Dawn proved an important meeting point for many prominent people including AE Waite, WB Yeats and Charles Williams. The central character was McGregor Mathers with his wife Moina, who was the sister of Henri Bergson. Women played an important role at a time of emerging sexual equality. The history of the Order and its many colourful characters are vividly evoked and it is easy to see why it could not last. Members chose their own motto, and Yeats selected ‘Demon est Deus Inversus’. There is also a good discussion of the meaning of magic in the Western tradition with its associated history. ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer
I have always enjoyed Gordon Strong’s writing since he always manages to add a soupcon of controversy at the start of his work to set the tone for the rest of his narrative. Take, for example, his introduction, which opens with the words:
“The ‘Order of The Golden Dawn’ could be regarded as the magical experiment that went terribly wrong. If we are to be charitable, we may speak of it as ‘a noble failure’; if realistic, it was a dream that was always going to become a nightmare. Magic has a volatile energy and it attracts those whose character contains that element. Magic is also, to paraphrase the Ten Commandments, ‘a jealous god’. Divine power is the source of all magic and those who attempt to monopolise this universal force, setting themselves up as a rival to God, do not meet with a kind reception.
“The triumph of the Golden Dawn was marred by the very elements that also made it successful. It is apparent that the personalities who held a rank within the organisation, and thus were in a position to shape its progress, had an idiosyncratic vision of how the Order should be. Internal politics eventually destroyed the Order proving, if it really needed to be, that the magical world is never able to completely transcend the material plane.”
There are those who believe the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to be the last word in ritual magic and no doubt these words will smack of heresy and lèse-majesté - although those who have followed the ritual magic path accept that their heroes were flawed and yet still retain a healthy respect for the dangerous work they attempted to accomplish, often at personal cost.
Of ‘The Golden Dawn – A Key to Ritual Magic’ the author says: “The book will be accepted by the occultist as it offers a new esoteric viewpoint. It will also not be intimidating to the general reader, or the novice of the unexplained.” It is also an important work since it also highlights the ‘significance of women members to the success of the original Golden Dawn’.
Gordon Strong has published numerous books on ‘ancient myths, magic and mind expansion’ and I have just finished re-reading his essay, ‘Emperor and the Magus: Magic and Politics in Romanov Russia’ which he sent me many years ago. Along with his old chum Alan Richardson, Gordon Strong is one of the most under-estimated occult writers of the modern age.
Melusine Draco: Coven of the Scales
The same review will be posted on amazon and Goodreads once it appears on their data base
~ Melusine Draco, Waterstones