Perigrin Wildoak has unleashed another storm by daring to suggest that the Golden Dawn was supposed to to die . Many have made the mistake of seeing Peri’s posts as saying that Golden Dawn groups should pack up and go home because they are not connected to the forces behind the original Golden Dawn. I don’t think he is saying that, but he is absolutely correct the Golden Dawn was meant to die.
There are a lot of myths spread about by modern magical groups without a GD connection which claim that the secret chiefs or contacts abandoned the GD because it had failed as an experiment. Others claimed they walked away because secret knowledge was published. Others claim that it was killed off because of the egos of those involved (these people usually belong to groups whose leaders have egos the size of Turkey)
However the problem with the death of the Golden Dawn is that it did not really happen the way they think.
The first Golden Dawn split into three active groups. There was the Stella Matutina, Waite’s Holy Order and Mathers’ AO. If you look at what these different groups represented, it becomes clear that the split was probably as a result of different secret chiefs (contacts) taking responsibility for different strands. Waite’s group was mystical, the SM was magical and Mathers was… well more Mathers. Based on what they did, all three were valid contacted groups.
When they started, they all used the Golden Dawn name. Clearly inner plane contacts were not going to allow that so they created a crisis (the Horos scandal) to force all of them to change their names.
Did they mean the original Golden Dawn to die – yes they did. But they meant for it to evolve into three different strands (which it did). All progressed reasonably well until another period of crisis in the late 1930s. In the UK it became clear that the existing SM and AO groups were not functioning that well. I am discounting the evidence of Israel Regardie who claimed it was so bad he had to publish all the Golden Dawn material from the Bristol Temple. Dion Fortune had dealings with the Bristol Temple and she believed it was a fully contacted group (which was why she introduced Regardie to it). The Bristol Secret Chiefs saw Regardie as taking the GD current to America (something Regardie ironically thought was bollocks)
The run up to and the period following the Second World War were a period of huge social change and this was having an impact on the magic of the time. What was showing was that the AO and the Bristol temple were not keeping up. The AO had lost Mina Mathers (for better or worse) and the SM was becoming more conservative to magical trends and scared. For example, the long running relationship between Fortune’s Inner Light and Bristol broke down because they refused to understand Fortune’s approach to polarity magic (something she had been taught by an AO alumna Maya Transhall-Hayes. They saw Fortune’s Binah ritual (with black candles and a woman on the altar) and panicked and claimed she had become a black magician. After the War Bristol did not die out but continued to operate – at an extremely low ebb. By the 1960s it was not initiating anyone and the 1970s it was hardly meeting at all. But in 1974 the last chief confessed to one Golden Dawn researcher that she had never closed it down, although they had not met for years. By the time of the Second World War its work was done.
Returning to the 1940s the AO’s secret chiefs were giving messages to Mather’s successor that it was supposed to close. There was no reason given, but the war might have been the last straw. All its material and vault was destroyed by its Temple chiefs in 1940. It is possible that the temple, which was always small, no longer had enough members.
As far as the UK was concerned, the GD did not really die out. There were still a few people who had the right to start it up again, and there are somewhat doubtful claims that they did. For decades, the UK was dominated by the OTO and Dion Fortune Tradition and its public poster child Wicca.
This trend had not continued in New Zealand, where Whare Ra continued to be a vibrant expression of the tradition. True, it had different contacts from Mathers and Westcott, but it also was kept in contact under Mrs Felkin and her daughter until the 1960s. During that time the Order had experimented with a wide range of different magical approaches within the GD format. Alice Bailey ideas for example flowed into the Order along with some of the fringe ideas which New Zealand would later become famous for. It was not at all static until the 1960s when under the influence of the chief John Von Dadelson it swiftly calcified. Von Dadelson and his wife were what these days would be called fundamentalist Christians but they had a strong belief in approaching magic and their own tradition in a literal and fundamentalist way. They were superb ritualists because they insisted on everything being done perfectly. However they were not very good at adapting what essentially had been a huge part of their adult lives to suit the trends which were happening in New Zealand at the time.
They believed however in a new age movement which was based in Taupo and wanted to sell Whare Ra to provide money for that. Had the members been asked, which they weren’t, the idea would have been vetoed. But if you have an absolute chief you can do all sorts of rubbish like that.
In 24 August 1978 a letter was circulated to members announcing the closure:
“Dear Fratres and Sorores,
This letter is addressed to all members of the Order of S.T., including members of the Second Order.
It is with great great regret that we write to inform you that the Temple is closing and there will be no Vernal Equinox Ceremony.
Those of you who have been present at recent Equinox Ceremonies will surely have been aware, not only of the lack of numbers, but also the lack of power, in the Temple. Those who have read their annual reports can scarcely have failed to notice that no new members have been admitted since 1975. Indeed there have been no grade ceremonies at all for the last two years or more. …”
It was clear that the contacts had voted with their feet and abandoned Whare Ra. What is important, however was the moment that particular door opened. Chic Cicero started his Order in the US based around the teachings he had received from Regardie and his books.
This was the beginning of what I call the “new Golden Dawn” and it was based on the seeds that the secret chiefs planted in the 1940s when they left the earlier temples. What is important to realise is that these modern groups are nothing like the original Golden Dawn or even Whare Ra. They are formed by modern people with modern minds. But they do have one very big problem – they believe that what they are doing is somehow connected to older Golden Dawn traditions. At their very worst they can be golden dawn re-enactment groups quibbling over the colour of the sashes, but unable to summon a cup of coffee. At their very best, they are vibrant groups which are getting significant effects.
The fact that they were seeded from a book is also problematic. Since the 1980s at least two groups were set up as businesses designed to raise money for their chiefs. These initiated lots of people who would never have got into a magic order but were gifted with cheque books, a nice figure, or useful skills. These types have habit of popping up and claiming they have been GD trained when they don’t know the lesser ritual of the pentagram. These groups have largely collapsed, and their leaders have moved on to other more lucrative business ventures.
The key really for each of these modern GD groups is if they evolve or not. If they take the seeds planted by Mathers and Westcott and build them into something which matches the magical traditions of the modern world.
Contacted groups are still rare, helped by the fact that many Regardie groups refuse to accept the existence of contacts (it does not mean they dont have them). Those who are are significant and producing something which is like the Golden Dawn on the surface, but only as the beginning of new work. If they have any sense, they are not calling themselves Golden Dawn either. Whatever was behind the foundation of the Golden Dawn it is not present in the current groups which are out there.
The Golden Dawn is dead – long live the Golden Dawn