Many people who first learn about the Golden Dawn become confused. They tend to equate the system to a type of religion but this is inaccurate. The Golden Dawn is a system of magic and the people who belong to the order come from many world faiths. Those who practice are dedicated to the esoteric study of world ceremonial magic, philosophy, and the occult. The studies tend to focus strongly on astrology, the Qabalah, divination, alchemy, Egyptian magic, Enochian Magic, and skrying. All ceremonial magic that is practiced is made up from a Egyptian, Judeo-Christian, Greek, Gnostic, Rosicrucian, and Masonic base.
The original Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn was founded in the 19th century in Great Britain. In those early days the focus was strongly on spiritual development. This seemed to be the founding for a vast majority of modern day occult movements such as modern Wicca and Thelema.
The founders of the Golden Dawn were all Freemasons. Three men launched the movement that would grow in popularity by leaps and bounds. These men were William Robert Woodman, Samual Mathers, and William Westcott. The entire hierarchy of the sect was based strongly on the Freemasons and still is today.
By the 1890’s the movement was firmly established in Great Britain but Mr Westcott chose to leave the Order. Soon after this Mr Mathers established a friendship with the very controversial Aleister Crowley. Mr Crowley was a writer and avid occultist who made no point in hiding his darker side. Many considered him to be the ‘Wickedest man in the world.’ This friendship would rip the Order apart as Mr Mathers rose Mr Crowley through the ranks quickly and many did not agree with this. Soon everyone seemed to form their own groups and the Order became many instead of one.
For the next hundred years the Golden Dawn would continue to exist in small fractions throughout the world. Israel Regardie would keep the Golden Dawn alive and he would be one of the major players in the occult world for the 20th Century. It is his work, beliefs, and writings that the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn is based upon.
Mr Regardie would be the secretary to the controversial Aleister Crowley. Must of Israel Regardies studies in the occult would come from Aleister Crowley. He remained working for Mr Crowley from 1928 to 1932. After those years the two parted company but Mr Regardie maintained contact as the years would pass.
Today the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn or HOGD, as it is more commonly called, relies heavily on Mr Regardie past writings and teachings. The HOGD is a non profit organization based out of Florida and founded by Charles Cicero in 1977.
One of the largest groups of the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn is out of Britain with a strong member base from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
I would strongly suggest visiting the two websites listed above if you want to learn more about the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn.
There is a completely different order of the Golden Dawn that is based off the late Aleister Crowleys beliefs and teachings. This is referred to as the Thelemic Order Of the Golden Dawn. They claim no affiliation with any other Golden Dawn in the world.
Anyone interested in the Golden Dawn should also check out the website Hermetic Virtues which features an online library and book store.