Many years ago I purchased some copies of an old British magazine called The Occult Review. In the January 1933 issue was an article entitled "Ceremonial Magic Unveiled" by noted occultist Dion Fortune, defending the writings of a young man named Israel Regardie. He had been attacked for publishing secret information. A few years before he died, I sent a copy to Regardie, thinking that he might have lost his copy of it over the decades. He immediately wrote back saying that he had lost it and he was extremely grateful. That article had changed his life, and without it, The Golden Dawn might never have been published.
Regardie had been the secretary of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley. He told me that Crowley didn't actually teach classes. Rather, if he felt somebody needed to know something, "Old Crow," as he called him, would tell the person what was needed or show how it was done. After he and Crowley parted ways, Regardie tried to write about the basics of the Kabbalah and magick by filtering out the Crowlean, or Thelemic, aspects of what he had learned. What was left was primarily the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. When he published his early books—A Garden of Pomegranates and The Tree of Life—members of the Order attacked him in writing for revealing their secrets. The article by Fortune was in response to those attacks. Grateful, he wrote her a letter of thanks. She invited him to visit, and when she saw his sad financial condition, let him live in an apartment she owned. Later, she introduced him to the Order, he received initiation, and became a member.
Within a few years, Regardie realized that the order was falling apart. He wrote about his internal conflicts in My Rosicrucian Adventure, eventually concluding that the only way to save the teachings of the Order was to publish them. He did this as WWII was beginning, with the four volumes of The Golden Dawn.
The Order shrank due to the war and a lack of interest in occultism among younger people. Regardie's writings supposedly caused many of the remaining aging members of the Order to quit. It seemed they felt that maintaining the secrets was more important than doing the work. A few sects of the order survived, but for the most part, the Order became moribund.
In the late 1960s, Llewellyn published the second edition of The Golden Dawn. It was the first time it was in print since the original publication in the late 1930s. Among occultists, The Golden Dawn is possibly the greatest compendium of occult knowledge ever. Virtually all modern occult groups, either directly or indirectly, use information originally covered in that book. The Golden Dawn can be considered the single most important modern book on occultism and magick.
Many people don't really understand its nature and think it is some kind of coursebook in magick. Actually, it's an encyclopedia where you look for particular pieces of information on magickal theory, philosophy, or technique.
As great and important as The Golden Dawn is, the book remains difficult for many. The index—created by David Godwin, author of Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia—certainly helps, but I have always felt that something more was needed for people who wanted to try the Golden Dawn system but didn't have direct access to the Order.
A New Approach
Regardie's books are must-have resources for anyone interested in the Golden Dawn, but there are two modern books that can make entry to the Golden Dawn much easier. They were written by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, two people who helped resurrect the Golden Dawn with the support of Regardie.
The Essential Golden Dawn is the ideal first book for those interested in the Order. It reveals the Order's basic structure, essential initial rituals, and provides an introduction to their teachings. It is perfect for beginners who want to find out about the Golden Dawn before following that path. It unlocks the complexities of the system without oversimplifying it, making it truly understandable.
To become a member of the Golden Dawn requires direct initiation, but anyone can attune to the energy, or "current," of the Order and walk its path. If you are interested in the Golden Dawn, yet don't want to join a group or don't have access to one, the Ciceros have provided a solution with Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition. This book is a missing link to becoming part of the Golden Dawn path. It takes you step-by-step through every aspect of the Golden Dawn tradition. Already, there are groups that are using this book as a focus of their magickal work. If you have thought about becoming involved with the Golden Dawn tradition, this is the best book for your cause.
The Golden Dawn—a Growing Tradition
I have met a surprising number of people who think that the work of the Golden Dawn is limited to what is in Regardie's books. In fact, members used the information Regardie eventually published as the beginning of their magickal work, not the limit. Even today, the Golden Dawn tradition continues to grow.