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History of the Golden Dawn and Mathers

Four years ago I had a draft of King over the Water. It featured the history of the Golden Dawn and the AO as it was then known, mostly based on Sword of Wisdom, Magicians of the Golden Dawn by Ellic Howe and the various Golden Dawn histories by RA Gilbert. At the time I did not intend to go far into the history of either, just to slide it into context with the AO Nisi documents which I wanted to publish. In the end I put these into Mather’s LastSecret so there was room to expand the history somewhat.
I had shown the original King over the Water to RA Gilbert who pointed out to me that there had been a lot more research done since Howe and he started their work. So I set about finding the information from later researcher’s like Darcy Kuntz, Poke Runyon and the wealth of new Primary texts which had popped up.
What started to emerge was a different picture of the Golden Dawn which had been previously thought. While some bits of information were well known they had never been integrated into a coherent story. Nor was there any attempt to define what the original Golden Dawn members had meant when they used loaded terms like “Secret Chiefs” to define their unseen administration. No one had, for example tried to find out what this “politics” was that so distracted Samuel Mathers that he was prepared to sacrifice his magic order for.
Did history, for example provide us with the somewhat vexing possibility that Golden Dawn lineage was impossible?
The results were somewhat surprising, but what I had not expected was how much deception would be revelled by groups claiming connections with the original orders. It would appear that in an attempt to gain credibility, they had based much of their history and “lineages” on Howe’s history or perhaps Sword of Wisdom. This would have been fine had it not been for the fact that Howe and Ithell in particular did not have all the facts when they came to write their history. Howe was keen to debunk the Golden Dawn and as Runyen has pointed out seemed sit on information which he knew would not back his facts. Recent researches by Christopher McIntosh of Exeter University seem to limit many of Howe’s theories.
So if a group bases its lineage story on a history, touted by Howe, and that information turns out to be wrong, it would appear to be proof that such a group is not as authentic as it would claim. Surely if such a group had the history and the material it claimed, they would have access to the truth. Likewise a group which claimed to have contact with the Secret Chiefs behind the Golden Dawn, say through a German group, they should have material to back it up. Otherwise it would just be yet another version of their original story. In fact there are groups which have certain similarities with the Golden Dawn (and SIRA) operating in Germany. But such groups are masonic and lack the magical perspectives of the Golden Dawn. The only answer for such a difference is that the Golden Dawn leadership, particularly Samuel Mathers, gained information which was not from these earth plane groups. Indeed we have descriptions from Samuel and Mina saying that he contacted these secret chiefs through seances. I just want to make it clear that the Z documents stand on their own as one of the most important things within Western Magic. Even if they were channeled communications from Crusty the Clown you have to admit that they unlocked an entirely new sphere of Western Magic. Equally that there was no way that an adept belonging to a European Masonic Order would have that information. If they had, then we would have found something similar elsewhere in magical thought.
Likewise there are some mythicans who spin stories about higher profile heads of orders with Golden Dawn connections. One example, which did not find its way into King over the Water was Countess” Tamara Bourkounwho was supposed to have a direct lineage from the Alpha et Omega via Transhall Hayes to form her Order of the Sphinx and Pyramid and was supposed to have given out AO charters. Actually this rumour was common in the UK in the 1990s and I made somewhat half-hearted attempt to find out more. Lately, with research for King I started finding out old members of Bourkoun’s order who presented me with documentary evidence that Bourkoun got her Golden Dawn using Regardie (and they had a long correspondence together) and her lineage, according to one of her students was directly from her Enochian contact. It was a fairly safe bet that she had never even heard of the AO.
So what does it matter really? Well yes. Part of the problem I have with magical groups is the bullshit factor. How can you claim to show people the Truth when you are actively campaigning to defend a pack of lies? Why can you try to tell people that you have a big secret to sell when you have spent more time promoting yourself as a the upholder of Mathers’ underpants?
The mythologies that groups use to justify their existence are all quite quaint until they are used to beat up other groups, or to relieve the incredulous of cash. If history denies such groups their antagonistic fantasy then it should be presented so students can make up their own mind.
Ignorance and faith have no part in magic and if someone tells you they know the secrets to turning lead into gold but seems surprisingly lacking in potable metals it is not enough to tell people “trust me.”
King over the Water lays to rest that there can be any group who can claim lineage from the original AO. It is a process which started to be come unraveled with Mather’s Last Secret. I have the impression that is something the AO mythcians have already worked out as they currently trying to spin other alternative histories and lineages. That is OK because they will be harder to sell anyway.
However I know that after the book comes out I will get a one star on Amazon from Fr WA (we all know you are and we are not impressed by your maturity) who will then proceed to slag off those who give positive reviews. I take comfort from the fact that One star from Fr WA is worth five stars from the rest of the GD community.

6 thoughts on “History of the Golden Dawn and Mathers

  1. This looks to be one of the most interesting history insights into the early AO and the GD in general. Looking forward to the chance to read it.

    I have to agree that so many “modern” GD groups make wild claims of lineage and create a myth around that supposed lineage. To paraphrase Manly P. Hall – any group making such claims should be avoided at all costs.

    In LVX,
    Samuel

  2. “History!? Your history’s all wrong, really, but that’s not what’s important anyway, and even if it were, we’ve got NEW SECRET CHIEF STUFF, for reals, and you’re just jealous!”

    I’d laugh, but I can’t anymore.

    I had thought — I had been told — that a ‘funny’ thing is a thing of a goodness. It isn’t. Not ever is it funny to the person it happens to. Like that sheriff without his pants. The goodness is in the laughing itself. I grok it is a bravery . . . and a sharing… against pain and sorrow and defeat.
    -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

  3. Although your new book doesn’t have a one star rating yet like Mather’s Last Secret does, I ordered both in anticipation.

    “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.” Eric Hoffer – The True Believer.

  4. Thanks Nick – I am really looking forward to the book. Yes, our history does matter for so many reasons. The obvious reasons are that which you give: the mung-bean false lineage “I know a Secret Chief” brigade.

    However, I know a temple in Australia whose history is supposed old and pre-Mathers death. This has not been a banging on point as such by the current heads. It is just there as part of the ‘history’. I think the current heads just accepted this. But over the last few years with some publications and the Book of the Tomb you put out, it is now clear someone back in the 70s “fibbed” a little. Without the release of source documents, original research and publications, the truth of the matter would never have been revealed.

    So, bravo and all that… thanks 🙂

  5. None of this matters; all of it matters. There is a plethura of publications ranging from “The Greek Magical Papyrus in Translation” and “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” to “Magick in Theory and Practice” (and everything in between). What really matters is not lineage and literature but personal exploration and discovery. All publications and organizations should serve as a way to think about things you may not have thought about before or think about things you have pondered before in a new way. I too have researched the Golden Dawn, other esoteric teachings, and in particular early Hermetic Magic. I’ve come to the conclusion that “the great secrets” lie within and are self evident with great concentration and contemplation.

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