What is the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn?


What is the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn?

By Amber Lona

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

What is the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn?

In this post I will be giving an overview of the history and some basic practices of the secret society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Including its connections to other secret societies and occultists.

Firstly, where does the golden dawn actually come from? Well, this was an esoteric order founded in England in the 1880s. This is a system of magic, not a religion, and was heavily influenced by the Free Mason’s, continuing to exist in various different forms today. Numerous different occultists and celebrities were part of this order. Often seen sporting Crowley’s Thelema logo. This order was founded by 3 men William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell Mathers, who were also Free Masons’s. The system is based upon hierarchy and initiation just like in Masonic Lodges. Unlike the masonic lodges, within the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn women, are admitted equally with men.

In Witchcraft Today, Wicca founder Gerald Gardner writes:

The people who certainly would have had the knowledge and ability to invent (the Wiccan rites) were the people who formed the Order of the Golden Dawn.

Gardner, Gerald B. Witchcraft today.

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this secret society was devoted to studying the occult, paranormal, and metaphysics. These modern day concepts of ritual magic are at the center of many of today’s traditions such as Thelema and Wicca. The Golden Dawn is one of the biggest influences on Western Occultism in the 20th century. One of three orders, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was all of which are referred to as the golden Dawn. Order 1 offers and teachings are based off the Hermetic Qabalah. Order 2 was Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis and the Third Order was that of the Secret Chiefs. It is drawn from the Qabalah and its specific understanding of symbols and the tree of life. This being said some understanding of the Qabalah is necessary to understand the Golden Dawn and its beliefs and rituals.

The Tree of Life

Qabalic Tree of Life

The sephirothic tree, is usually represented as the tree of life. This tree is comprised of ten spiritual branches. Through these branches, everything existing creates what is called Sephira, intercommunicating and eminating through 22 paths equivalent to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It has 10 spheres are connected by 22 paths. These paths are also numbered similarly to the sephiroth. The numbering of the sephiroth and the 22 paths connect to the Hebrew alphabet letters. Noted in the Fourth Knowledge Lecture of the Golden Dawn.

What is the difference between the 3 different orders in the golden dawn?

The first order and their offerings and teachings are based off the Hermetic Qabalah. Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis was the second order and the Third Order was that of the Secret Chiefs. Grades of the First Order were related to the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Before being allowed to ascend to the next grade of the order, students would receive instructions on the metaphysical meanings of these elements. They were then given a test showing off the specific skills learned before being allowed to progress. The Portal Grade is “Invisible” an in-between grade that separates the First and Second Order.

Grades and Structure of the Order were as follows

First Order

  • Introduction—Neophyte 0=0
  • Zelator 1=10
  • Theoricus 2=9
  • Practicus 3=8
  • Philosophus 4=7
  • Intermediate—Portal Grade

Second Order

  • Adeptus Minor 5=6
  • Adeptus Major 6=5
  • Adeptus Exemptus 7=4

Third Order

  • Magister Templi 8=3
  • Magus 9=2
  • Ipsissimus 10=1

Numbers that are paired and attached to the Grades correspond to positions on the Tree of Life. “0=0” the Neophyte Grade signifies no position on the Tree. The first number is the number of steps up from the bottom (Malkuth), and the second number is the number of steps down from the top (Kether).


This order is referred to as hermetic because their teachings arise from hermeticism. Hermeticism was centered on Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-great Hermes). who was thought to have written the Hermetica and brought his knowledge to man.

The Complete Golden Dawn system of practicing magic:

The Golden Dawn uses the practice of ceremonial magic as well as utilizing magic for personal development in the spiritual sense. Also, using evocation as a way to get the power they so desire.

What is the purpose of the golden dawn?

The main goal of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is the evolution into a state of full consciousness. Accessing the divine spark lying inside all of us. “To become more than human.”

You may have heard the term “The Great Work” used in relation to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn…But what is the great work? And what does it mean to become more than human

“The Great Work” is a term used in Hermeticism as well as many other occult traditions. It signifies ones personal spiritual path towards self-transcendence. This is done by bringing unconscious complexes into the conscious, done so they can integrate them back into oneself. “To become more than Human” means the practicing magician has completed their own energetic evolution as described by the golden dawn. Essentially freeing the soul from the unseen forces in which it is bound, reaching a state of enlightenment and becoming more than one previously was.

A common phrase that comes up when discussing the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is Rosicrucianism.

So what exactly is the Rosicrucian tradition and what is the area of its primary spiritual practices? Rosicrucianism was started in 17th Century Europe. A movement of cultural and spiritual nature. It is based on the publication of texts that were said to announce the existence of unknown esoteric order. The orders doctrine is built upon ancient esoteric truths that have been hidden away from the average person. They provide insight into the spiritual realms as well as our physical world and the nature that surrounds us. These manifestos combine the spiritual practices of Alchemy, Christian mysticism, Hermeticism, and the Kabbalah. Making Hermetics Rosicrucian.

The Fragmentation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Eventually, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn would end up fragmenting off into 3 main offshoots. Alpha et Omega, which was headed by John William Brodie-Innes and Macgregor Mathers. Isis-Urania Temple was led by A.E. Waite. Lastly, the A.A. formed by Aleister Crowley. These were the main orders but there would be a multitude of other orders to come later. Thelema for example is another order/society associated with Crowley based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that came out of this fragmentation.

In Closing…

We have gone over the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I hope I have helped you learn the basics regarding this secret society. After diving into what it is exactly and the history of the order. Also, breaking down what the three different orders inside the golden dawn are as well as giving some insight in the complete system for practicing if you are so inclined. Below I have attached a few links to articles relating to this Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn subject matter. I will also provide you to some books on this topic, if you would like to do some further research.

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If you are interested in reading some helpful books about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn I will leave some of my favorites linked below.

The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Llewellyn Publications

Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabitha Cicero

Golden Dawn Magic: A Complete Guide to the High Magical Arts by Llewellyn Publications

The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic by Llewellyn Publications

Also, check out our post on the Celtic Runes!



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