"The Philosopher’s Stone is a term used by Cabalists to denote the Supreme Wisdom, the union of the divine consciousness or omniscient Solar Principle in man with the lower consciousness or personality, which union has been the goal of Initiates of all ages. Exoterically, the Philosopher’s Stone is the secret of the transmutation of the baser metals into gold.”, Comte de Gabalis, by the Abbe N. de Montfaucon de Villars, Paris, 1670;

Golden Dawn Rising

The Rosicrucians were a myth written into reality. In a sense they were an early example of what contemporary writer and magician Grant Morrison terms a “hyper-sigil.” By crafting a narrative that would attract the imaginations of certain people, a new social reality can be made.

As John Dee was spending his last days at Mortlake amongst his looted library and estate his ideas were finding a new outlet on the Continent of Europe. Beginning in 1607 CE a series of pamphlets were circulated detailing the story of one Christian Rosenkreuz who was said to have created a society to the collection and preservation of the esoteric wisdom of the ancients and which was revealing this information now. Rosenkreuz’ story would have him traveling to the east to learn the Ancient Wisdom traditions preserved there. He would bring these traditions back to Europe and would found his Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross to disseminate this wisdom.

Dee’s influence upon these documents can be seen in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. The invitation for the allegorical wedding of this manifesto is marked with Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica. It is likely that his influence had come from Heinrich Khunrath (1560 CE – 1605 CE), an admirer of Dee’s work and a writer on the topic of Alchemy. Another influence upon the emergence of the group had been Rudolf II (1552 CE– 1612 CE) the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled from Prague and had collected many of the best thinkers of the day from a wide variety of fields to his court and who has a firm devote to the development of Alchemy.

On the Continent Rosicrucianism was most closely associated with Germany and with opposition to the Roman Catholic Church in alliance with Lutheranism. It would also come to cohabitant with Speculative Freemasonry, a fraternal system derived in part from the Stone Masons of Medieval Europe. Because of the secrecy that such fraternal systems allowed Freemasonry and groups modeled on Freemasonry would flourish as would claims to Rosicrucian wisdom throughout the 17th Century.

In the beginning of the 18th Century a lineage of particular importance began in Germany. With a claimed date of founding in 1710 CE (though it is suggested that 1750 CE was more likely) the Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz (Order of the Gold and Rosy Cross) was founded in Germany by Hermann Fichtuld. The group was open to Master Masons and focused its work upon Alchemy. The group used a tired degree or grade system like most Masonic inspired groups, with the format for this group being: Juniores, Theoreticus, Oracticus, Philosophus, Minor, Major, Adeptus, Magestus , Magus. Here we see the reason for our detour over the last few posts, as we find at the top of this structure a Magus Degree taking its name from the Zoroastrian tradition.

Not much is available regarding the practical Work of the Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz though its structural titles would lay a foundation for other groups. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.), a British Rosicrucian group founded in 1865 CE would use it as the basis for their own structure. Similarly open to Master Masons its Degree system was spread across three “Orders”:

First Order

Grade I - Zelator

Grade II - Theoricus

Grade III - Practicus

Grade IV - Philosophus

Second Order

 Grade V - Adeptus Minor

Grade VI - Adeptus Major

Grade VII - Adeptus Exemptus

Third Order

Grade VIII - Magister

Grade IX - Magus

Within the S.R.I.A. was Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie (1833 CE– 1886 CE). In his youth he had traveled to Vienna to act as a tutor and may have been exposed to ideas from the Asiatic Brethren, a group of Frankish Kabbalists. A linguist and translator by profession he would work in the office of Benjamin Disraeli when Disraeli was still a publisher. Mackenzie made a name for himself mainly through translations of and writing on the Classics, but in his spare time he became interested in Rosicrucianism and the Occult.

In 1854 he had met Paschal Beverly Randolph, (1825 CE – 1875 CE), an American who had founded the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis in 1858. In 1861 CE Mackenzie traveled to France where it is thought that he made contact with Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant). When Robert Wentworth Little discovered some German rituals which he believed to be of Rosicrucian origin he recruited Mackenzie to help with the translation. This material would be used to found the S.R.I.A.

When Mackenzie died in 1886 CE a manuscript was found among his papers in code. It would come into the possession of William Wynn Westcott (1848 CE– 1925 CE), a coroner and leading member of the S.R.I.A. Westcott would recruit Samuel Liddell Mathers (1854 CE – 1918 CE) o decipher the text. Mathers discovered that the text contained the outline for a magical Order based upon the symbolism of the Four Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air with images drawn from the Kabbalah and Egyptian myth. Westcott and Mathers, along with Robert Wentworth Little who was then Grand Magus of the S.R.I.A., would use this document to found the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn using a Degree System based on the S.R.I.A. in 1888 CE. As with the S.R.I.A. it would be spread across three Order:

First Order

Neophyte 0=0

Zelator 1=10

Theoricus 2=9

Practicus 3=8

Philosophus 4=7

Portal Grade

Second Order

 Adeptus Minor 5=6

Adeptus Major 6=5

Adeptus Exemptus 7=4

Third Order

Magister Templi 8=3

Magus 9=2

Ipsissimus 10=1

Westcott and Mathers claimed that the Cipher manuscript originated within a German Rosicrucian group that had attempted, and failed, to create a Lodge in England some decades before. They contacted this group via a representative, one Anna Sprengel, who does not appear to have gone through the formality of actually existing. As the manuscript itself appears to be in Mackenzie’s hand it seem more likely that it was the plan for an unfulfilled Order of his design to be created within the S.R.I.A.

 The First Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn focused primarily upon a Kabbalistic approach to Magic for its lessons and Dramatic Rituals of the Freemasonic style for its Initiation Rites. Like much of the Rosicrucian Kabbalah there seems to be a trace of Frankish, and there for Sabbatean, elements to this, including the free pronunciation of the Tetragramaton. In a radical departure from Freemasonry and the S.R.I.A. the Golden Dawn was open to female applicants and as such did not demand that its members be Masons.

The Second Order, for those who had completed the Kabbalistic Training of the First Order focused instead largely upon practical magic and upon the Enochian Materials of John Dee, which Mathers had elaborated upon greatly from Dee’s original accounts. Into this mix Mathers was fold the newly discovered wisdom of the Egyptians being translated thanks to the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 CE, and the practical Hermetic magic of Late Antiquity restored by the discovery of the Greek Magical Papyi in 1827 by Giovanni Anastasi (1780 CE –1860 CE).

No materials associated with the Third Order exists, and it is widely believed that this Order was more theoretical with little administrative function beyond potential Temple Roles in the Order’s Rituals. The titles for this Order however will prove to be important. The most novel addition to the Degrees by the Golden Dawn was the addition of “Ipsissimus.” This is a Latin word meaning “My Very-most Self” that likely entered their design via Friedrick Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human published in 1878 CE.

Between these two Orders the great streams of thought we have been discussing would come together. An authentic connection to the magical traditions of the Hermetica would be established. The Apocalypticism embodied in the Works of John Dee would be explored and expanded. The Messianic Kabbalah would be integrated as a foundation of the Order’s Work, a quirk enabled by a policy of Philosemiticism under Oliver Cromwell after the Civil war (If you are going to be the New Jerusalem you are going to need Jews).

Although many people think of the Golden Dawn as having been a group of “old mustaches” due to its founders its actual popularity was largely with the literary and theatrical scene in England, with its early membership being mostly in their 20s. Early on much of the operations of the grop would pass from its founding triad to Mathers’ wife Moina (Bergson) Mathers (865 CE – 1928 CE) and then to Florence Farr (1860 CE – 1917 CE) when the Mathers would move to Paris and appointed her Chief Adept in Anglia circa 1987 CE.

Although not nearly as well known as other members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn it is Florence Farr whose Work this series on Aeons truly pivots upon. She wold provide a Key for a much more well known member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who once saw himself as her suitor, Edward Alexander “Aleister” Crowley (1875 CE– 1947 CE).

Alchemical Musings: Dissolution

The Old Witch returns, this time with a lesson about the Great Work, that mystical wedding of chymicals

It was once custom in old Izalith to mark the important days in a person’s life with the mixing of archtree ash and water, a ritual equal parts practical and aesthetically pleasing. While some would deride the practice as empty and politicized (a reminder that all under the Flame’s sign owed a tithing to their protectors and legislators), to dismiss it entirely would be cynical and shortsighted. For all public and private rituals, there was once some precious and holy significance behind the act; one or many people thought it important enough to wish its survival. And speaking specifically of this gesture, the mixing of ash and water symbolized a wish—that what was once part of ourselves nourish us in a different way; that we become stronger, wiser, and more skilled.

The practice lives on, preserved in our academy with a mind to history and the importance of ritual. Indeed, to advance to the rank of Initiate, our custom is to bathe with a tincture of ash and water, a vial from the neophyte’s last test. Spells are murmured for the bath’s duration, and upon completion oil is used to mark the student as one who honors the ways of the past while innovating for the future good.

But I can tell you that my own anointing and rank succession was not easily done, oh no.

The neophyte’s last task is to burn, and in that self-immolation reduce to ashes that which is considered most dear but no longer servile. And should it sound easy as ridding yourself of a vegetable or particular habit you already do not care for, the test can cost your life. I recall one associate equal parts motivated and unambitious arrive at his rank test with flat, emotionless acknowledgment, perhaps even boredom. His look seemed to say “Oh wonderful, more tests, more things to memorize, another list for my name to exist on.” I recall his manner as easy and open-minded, if a little aloof. And I am sad to say, I recall how he screamed as his body burned, the ash and water rejecting him a priori, his careless, childish wish to be rid of some hated foodstuff melt as the obsidian manacles glittered in the fire’s light. It was not just I who watched, but I thought it was just me who saw the way the obsidian and fire licked together, the bones becoming black and no longer belonging to a person. It seemed that terrible glass and flame laughed…at him, at us, at everything in the world.

When it came to my turn for the pyre, I had a reasonable amount of fear; the charred bones clattered together as they were unceremoniously swept aside. Later they would be interred, but in that moment my only thought was Would I join them?

I saw a single image; past or future I couldn’t say. “Let her’s be the gift,” intoned my superiors, “let her cries fill the Void, her tears mix with ash.” In the column of fire, there I was, holding a beautiful, impossibly luminous flame. It did not dance on the back of my hand, nor did it roll from one finger to the next as the sparks I easily summoned in idle moments. This flame was alive, and it commanded respect. I cradled it, holding it in front of my chest, a fragile and delicate thing. A voice whose owner I did not recognize remarked: “And hers is the soul of Life.” Hands clasped around the fire, but its light refused to be dimmed, refused to be ignored. It burst through the cracks between the  clasped fingers, and a horrifying scream rang in my ears. The owner of the voice was… it was…

All these years later, I still wonder at that image…prophecy, maybe. It haunts me, calls to me. I fear where it will lead me, eventually, but for now, my studies into the Great Work continue.

My dear readers may be relieved that they will not have to undergo this sort of dire transformative experience, but considering the pain associated with letting go of what we cling to out of habit and comfort is a task well worth the effort.

Alchemy symbols. Historical artwork of alchemy symbols and their explanation, taken from an 18th- century German publication. The chemicals shown are potassium nitrate (salpeter), copper (koper), ammonium chloride (salarmonacum), allaun verlecht (a metal alloy), sodium choride (salcomunis), mercury (queck silber) and sulphur (sulphur). Alchemy was the pseudo-scientific predecessor to chemistry, which among other ideas is best known for its practitioners’ hunt for the Philosopher’s Stone, which would impart eternal life and the ability to turn base metals into gold.


Ms. # 2400, Bibliotheque de Troyes, France. Adapted from Manly P. HALL: The Most Holy Trinosophia of the Comte de St. Germain (Philosophical Research Society, 1963)


It is in the retreat of criminals in the dungeons of the Inquisition that your friend writes these lines which are to serve for your instruction. At the thought of the inestimable advantages which this document of friendship will procure for you, the horrors of a long and little deserved captivity seem to be mitigated… It gives me pleasure to think that while surrounded by guards and encumbered by chains, a slave may still be able to raise his friend above the mighty, the monarchs who rule this place of exile.”

This section presents the ancient beliefs and practices, some dating from the earliest times. Some of the beliefs and activities still exist though not in their original form.

The following articles are presented:


Alchemical process, summarized
Argent vive
Chemical wedding
Chinese alchemy
Cock and Hen
Doubling According to Moses
Emerald Tablet, The
Fifth element
First Matter
Flying Slave
Imperfect metals
Islamic alchemy
King Sol
Lady’s mantle
Opus alchymicum
Pagan Vision of Alchemy
Philosopher’s Stone
Philosophical lead
Philosophical mercury
Philosophical salt
Philosophical sulphur
Philosophical tree
Prima materia
Queen Luna
Recipes, The
Virgin’s milk
White Elixir

Man has ever been overawed by the majesty of the stars; yet he has not failed to notice that the movements of these bodies are apparently capricious. The moon has always been to him a type of mutability; only in the sun has he seemed to find a settled resting-point. Now, when we remember that in the alchemical scheme of things the material earth and material heavens, the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual world were regarded as one great whole, the parts of which were continuously acting and reacting on each other, we cannot wonder that the alchemist should regard special phenomena which he observed in his laboratory, or special forms of matter which he examined, as being more directly than other phenomena or other forms of matter, under the influence of the heavenly bodies. This connection became gradually more apparent to the student of alchemy, until at last it was fixed in the language and the symbols which he employed.

Thus the sun (Sol) was represented by a circle, which likewise became the symbol for gold, as being the most perfect metal. The moon (Luna) was ever changing; she was represented by a half-circle, which also symbolized the pale metal silver.

Copper and iron were regarded as belonging to the same class of metals as gold, but their less perfect nature was denoted by the sign + or ↑. Tin and lead belonged to the lunar class, but like copper they were supposed to be imperfect metals. Mercury was at once solar and lunar in its properties.

These suppositions were summed up in such alchemical symbols as are represented here.

- Heroes of Science, by M. M. Pattison Muir