This blog post was first published in August 2010. Recently it has been brought to my attention that some of its contents need updating! See below for details.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is of course probably the most influential occult society of all time. Recently [i.e. July 2010] a book has appeared on Amazon entitled The Golden Dawn: Unpublished Lectures of the Hermetic Order of the AO. This has sparked some controversy on message boards across the interwebby thing along the lines of “It’s a fake,” “Oh no it’s not,” “Oh yes it is,” etc ect tec.
This got me thinking: where can a scholar go to find the original Golden Dawn manuscripts him- (or her-) self? So for example one does not have to rely on books of dodgy provenance? For this reason I present the following. Note that I do not claim that accessing any of the following is easy – this is probably why the original manuscripts of the GD remain not so widely known.
The Warburg Institute, London
Contains: The Yorke Collection
This archive is famous for containing Aleister Crowley’s papers, most of which have now found their way into print – either with or without the OTO’s approval. For a Thelemic magician this would be interesting enough. However two points should be noted: amongst Crowley’s own papers are documents which he himself got from the Golden Dawn, and from Allen Bennet, when he was a member.
Secondly, the Yorke Collection also contains Golden Dawn material that would never have come into Crowley’s possession. This includes material from the AO on the Tarot, and most interestingly a number of rituals of the “Cromlech Temple” (otherwise known as the Holy Order of the Sun) which to my knowledge have not seen the light of day, proverbially speaking.
The rest of the Golden Dawn material seems to be a complete set of documents of just about everything that was published by Regardie, as well as the Flying Rolls which were later published by Francis King.
Entrance to the Warburg Institute is free so long as you are a student or member of staff of a recognised University and are engaged in a relevant course of study – documentary evidence of this will be required. So hoi polloi cannot just turn up and discover the Sun Order’s Ritual of Initiation of Fire for instance by claiming to be a “student of the mysteries,” I think they might be wise to that one.
[2018 update: Since I first wrote this, the Warburg Institute has completely redesigned its website, so that it is now quite atrocious for trying to look up what is and what isn’t in the Yorke Collection. If they have not been alienating property from the collection, they are certainly doing so to researchers! Grrr.]
Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.
Contains: The Carr P Collins Collection
Carr P Collins Jr (born 1918) was highly interested in druidism, wicca and magick and was allegedly the source of the documents which Regardie used for The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. Maddeningly however his collection is not fully inventorised – at least not on the web.
The Bridwell Library may be used by students and staff of Southern Methodist University: otherwise it is necessary to become an associate member which costs $50 per annum. As far as I am aware you have to be in situ to make use of the facilities, so if anyone is in Dallas kindly let me know what goodies are there!
The National Library of Ireland
Contains: Occult Papers of W B Yeats
Of all the members of the Golden Dawn, Nobel laureate W B Yeats achieved the most in public life, so it was kind of inevitable that the Republic of Ireland would want to preserve his papers for the world. Fortunately for the Golden Dawn scholar, Yeats was an Adeptus Exemptus of the Stella Matutina – so his archives in the National Library of Ireland contain manuscripts from the original order of the GD, the “Morgan Rothe” which was the London faction’s name when the order split in 1900, and the latter Stella Matutina all the way up to 7=4. It also contains Yeats’ GD notes and a lot more besides.
Two documents from the higher grades of the Stella Matutina are particularly interesting. One is a detailed analysis of the Adeptus Major 6=5 ceremony, which describes the inner astral workings of the ritual: this has been published by George Mills Harper in Yeats’ Golden Dawn. The other is the 7=4 ritual itself, whose full title is “The Mystical Grade of 7º = 4 Being the Grade of the ROD Which Blossoms. ” NB A version of the 7=4 ritual was published by Pat Zalewski in which it was called the “rose which blossoms.” However, assuming the Yeats version is the correct one, this would imply that the 7=4 is themed about the story of Aaron’s Rod, which when it blossomed confimed Aaron’s authority as High Priest.
Sometime last year photos were made available on Flickr of a small sample of the kind of things which are in the Yeats collection. A goodly sample is can also be viewed online in the Virtual Yeats Exhibition.
Most excitingly the Library indicates that it may make copies of items in the collection which are in good condition, also the price of actually doing so is enough to dissuade most indigent occultists.
I personally know of the location of several other original GD documents although scholarly access to them is limited for one reason or another. For example, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Great Queen Street has a cache of material belonging to Wynn Westcott: unfortunately it is still in the process of being catalogued so it won’t be available for public inspection until sometime in the (hopefully near) future.
[2018 update: however, a lot more work has been done since 2010 – see: The Library & Museum of Freemasonry > Explore > Search The Collections.]
There are also organisations to which members of the GD also belonged, which have material from the GD locked in their cupboards for safekeeping: however just how much is hidden away I cannot say. I was privileged enough to have a brief glimpse inside one such archive and found a single ritual dating from 1916, and nothing else from the GD (the ritual itself is one that has already been published).
Doubtless there are other archives about the place, not to mention the collections of private individuals (e.g. Bob Gilbert), so I shall probably post a follow up to this post once I have tracked them down.
[2018 update: the preceding comment should be re-read in the light of my subsequent blog-post, Golden Dawn Exhibition, 19th December 2013]