The Golden Dawn, often abbreviated as simply “GD,” has been called the most famous and influential magical group of the modern era, and it continues to be one of the primary vehicles for teaching new generations of ceremonial magicians. Over the decades many have pronounced the Golden Dawn dead and gone, its teachings antiquated, and its practitioners out of step with the times. In spite of this, large sections of Golden Dawn rituals and techniques have been plucked wholesale and placed squarely within the practices of New Agers, Wiccans, Neopagans, and others, often without any knowledge or acknowledgment of their GD roots. This material is so prevalent within the greater magical and Neopagan community that many practitioners of the various spiritual paths simply assume that it was always a part of their own respective traditions.
There is certainly nothing wrong with various spiritual paths borrowing liberally from the Golden Dawn. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the adoption of these methods points out just how useful and contemporary the Golden Dawn teachings are. Many magical groups and individual seekers are able to take what they need from the tradition and adapt it to their own needs. More power to them! The sheer volume of material, the comprehensive scope and effectiveness of the Golden Dawn system, makes it ripe for cherrypicking. And this is not a bad thing - when presented with the origins of such practices as the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar exercise, some readers will want to know more about our tradition.
Nevertheless, the best way to understand the Golden Dawn is to experience it in the manner in which the system was created. This involves more than a piecemeal attitude: there is simply no substitute for a holistic approach. The various parts of the system are intimately interconnected, even if this is not immediately apparent to beginners. There are built-in safeguards that were designed with the student’s psychic well-being in mind. Rather than rushing headlong into advanced practices before one is ready for them, Golden Dawn magicians learn their art at a reasoned, steady pace meant to promote discipline, good judgment, gradual skill, spiritual integrity, and reverence for the Divine.
This emphasis on psychic safeguards is exactly why the Golden Dawn system of magic has remained vibrant for 130 years. Far from being some outdated relic of Victorian times, the Golden Dawn is a living, breathing, growing tradition. Various Golden Dawn groups currently exist all over the globe. Today there are more practicing Golden Dawn magicians than at any other time since 1888. Many of them can fully attest to the beauty, efficacy, and transformative power of this spiritual path. Several quality books on the system, penned by accomplished magicians who wish to share their knowledge and experience, have been published in recent years. In short, it is a great time to begin to explore the teachings and magic of the Golden Dawn.
The heart of the Golden Dawn system of magic is often referred to as theurgy, or “God-working.” It is summed up in the Obligation of the Adeptus Minor: “I further promise and swear that with the Divine Permission I will, from this day forward, apply myself to the Great Work -which is, to purify and exalt my spiritual nature so that with the Divine Aid I may at length attain to be more than human, and thus gradually raise and unite myself to my higher and Divine Genius …” This is the light that guides the path of the Golden Dawn magician.
Borrowed from the lexicon of alchemy, the Great Work refers to the esoteric journey for illumined awareness of Divinity, which is the ultimate goal of theurgy. It indicates the spiritual seeker’s quest for union with the Divine. Although the practice of magic often involves consecrating talismans, performing invocations, carrying out divinations, and similar magical techniques for purposes both spiritual and worldly, it should never be forgotten that the single overriding objective of the Golden Dawn system is the aspirant’s constant quest for inner communion with the Sacred Source. Everything else is a distant second.
Anyone who has ever paged through Israel Regardie’s classic text The Golden Dawn immediately realizes just how complicated and comprehensive the Golden Dawn system is. The sheer size of the book is enough to scare many away. You will often hear the Golden Dawn curriculum described as “the equivalent of a PhD in magic.” Some of us have fallen in love with this system right off the start; we relish the rich complexity and the endless insights gained through working with it. It is a boundless, living fountain of inspiration, and the depths of the system have yet to be plumbed.
But complexity can be a poor tutor. How much easier our own journey would have been with a simple introductory text on the suject! The two of us often look at each other and say, “If only we had a book like this whn we were first starting out! That would have been so helpful!”
This book was written for beginners as well as more seasoned magicians. Some students may already have considerable esoteric knowledge, while others do not. Many readers may want to explore the Golden Dawn system before deciding if it is something they wish to pursue. We take nothing for granted here. We do not assume that readers have any prior knowledge of astrology, tarot, or Qabalah. Therefore, we present many aspects of the Golden Dawn system as succinctly as possible. This gives beginners the material they need without becoming overwhelmed, and provides more advanced students with concise information for resource and review.
By necessity, we occasionally use the words beginner, novice, and newcomer. More often, however, we employ the terms “student,” “seeker,” and “aspirant.” These terms are more inclusive and they cover all of us, not just some of us. As Israel Regardie stated, “We are all students and should be for life.”
Golden Dawn Magic is not structured in a series of lessons, nor does it align with the ordering of grade work given to initiates in a fully functioning Golden Dawn Temple. Many of the exercises presented here are our own, designed to supplement the more traditional ritual work of the later chapters. The book is organized into chapters that contain information, meditations, and exercises or rituals, along with review questions as aids to learning. It is not our purpose to fully explain all the topics presented here. No introductory book can do that. We do, however, supply you with the tools needed to understand the basics of Golden Dawn ritual magic and the principles of our tradition. If you decide to seek out more information, a list of helpful texts is provided at the end of this book.
One point that we cannot stress strongly enough is that the process of spiritual growth is not a race. Take your time with the exercises. Meditate frequently on the topics provided. Don’t get discouraged if you think you are not getting anywhere at first. Take a step back when you feel you need to. There is no merit badge given to the fastest learner.
We can personally affirm that the Golden Dawn has changed our lives and continues to enrich our spiritual and magical practices every day. This tradition is a labor of love for us, as well as a calling to teach what we have learned. It is a reminder to help other aspiring magicians in the same manner that we ourselves were helped years ago. If only a small number of readers consider this book to be a useful stretch of road on their journey in quest of the Great Work, it will have been well worth the effort.