There are many ideas that circulate about the Golden Dawn which get parroted by people who are not in it, or have not researched it correctly. Occasionally I get pissed off with this because it often clouds an understanding of what the GD is all about.
The Golden Dawn was free-masonic and founded by the SRIA
If anything the Golden Dawn was a reaction against Freemasonry and SRIA. The GD founders wanted women members and practical magic, both of these things were unacceptable to masonry and the SRIA.
Just because its three founders were at various times in their lives masons or members of SRIA, just does not make it a masonic or SRIA off-shoot.
Westcott and Woodman were members of the General Medical council, you can hardly say that the GD was “influenced” by medicine. All of them were at various times members of Theosophical movement, and yet this thought is surprisingly lacking within the GD. Mather’s connection with SRIA was peripheral, and when the GD was formed Westcott was not the Grand Poohbah of that group either. But even this is a blind.
Westcott and Mathers might have formed the Order of the Golden Dawn, but they did not write the cipher manuscripts which are the bedrock of the system. These were written by Kenneth McKenzie who was not a member of SRIA when they were written and was only a peripheral mason.
Sure, there are similarities between masonry and the Golden Dawn rituals, but the same could be said for most ritual magic based systems. Masonry might be an influence on some of the smaller details of the Golden Dawn ritual, but certainly not in the overall picture.
Golden Dawn rituals are long and boring
The Golden Dawn initiation rituals are long, but not much longer than similar rituals performed by other groups.
The Portal, 5=6 and 4=7 is very involved. However, that is because they are actually doing something. Few people complain about the lengths of these rituals, because anyone can see that their length is necessary.
What people tend moan about is the rituals which appear in Regardie’s Golden Dawn book which really take a very long time and involve long invocations. Most people don’t realise that these were penned by Regardie and were not official rituals. It is possible to do a good talismans ceremony using the same formula as Regardie in a lot less time.
When Regardie showed his rituals to his Golden Dawn teachers they were not exactly happy with them either. They felt they were too involved and wordy. He put them in as examples of GD rituals for his own reasons.
The Golden Dawn is based on a forgery
All magical groups are based on a lie of some sort, and I cannot find a single one which does not have a skeleton in its cupboard of its founding myth somewhere.
As it turns out Westcott did not forge the cipher manuscripts, but he might have arranged to forge the letters from Fr Sprengel which gave him authority to start the GD. However the teaching and the rituals were created by him and Mathers inspired by the cyphers which were created by McKenzie
The Golden Dawn groups are always fighting against each other
This is a myth created during the 1990s when two businessmen attempted to set up “GD businesses” based around a Golden Dawn temple structure. They attracted a large number of followers and treated other Golden Dawn groups as business rivals. They also spent a lot of time slagging off each other. There were court cases about the Golden Dawn name and all sorts of shenanigans which usually could be traced back to these two people who were largely outside the Golden Dawn community.
As I pointed out here the Golden Dawn community has never actually been fighting amongst itself and for the most part we get along with each other.
The Golden Dawn does not use modern Inner systems
This myth comes from those who see traditions as Inner Light, SOL etc as deriving entirely from Dion Fortune. In fact Fortune’s own magical system was a fusion of Golden Dawn technique with Theosophical philosophy. There was not a signal magical technique used by Fortune, which was not used by the Golden Dawn and its off-shoots. This includes mediumship, channelling, inner temples, inner plane contacts, etc. While they might not have adopted the Theosophical ideas of Fortune, they were very much behind her methods.
There has been a tendency within some GD groups to purge themselves of these techniques. Many of them are following the advice of Israel Regardie who thought that they were just messing around with their unconscious. There was a respectable way of teaching such techniques which has been largely lost within the modern GD tradition, but these have started to make a comeback thanks to the work of Pat Zalewski, and the re-connection with Dion Fortune’s current with the GD one.
The Golden Dawn ended in 1901
The Original Order of the Golden Dawn split into three different forms at the beginning of the 20th century – the Stella Matutina (magical), Holy Order (mystical) and AO (quasi magical-masonic) . Of these forms the last, Whare Ra (SM), shut down in 1978. Immediately a new form of the GD expressed itself and the Modern GD began. In many ways the modern GD has been spending the last few decades rediscovering what the original orders already knew and intergrating it into modern practices. Either way the GD did not die ever.
Only the Original Golden Dawn was pure and the real thing, modern groups know much less.
The Golden Dawn itself only latest a few years and it was in a constant state of evolution. If you were to find original Golden Dawn documents and build an order on them you would be lacking in most of the magical techniques and teachings which were evolved later. Many modern golden dawn groups were formed from reading these later works from around the 1920s and 1930s. Additional material has come from the New Zealand temple of Whare Ra which only closed in the 1970s. Now new names are bringing in interesting developments in the form of knowledge that was unavailable to Mathers and Westcott. Egyptian and Hebrew material which had not been seen has been integrated along with a playing down of Christian magic (in some groups).
Groups are able to slot this teaching into the filing cabinet of training and structure set up by the original Golden Dawn. There are Golden Dawn based groups which know a lot more than the original order and are infinitely better than version 1.0.