Concepts of magic and ritual at the center of contemporary traditions, such as Wicca and Thelema, were inspired by the Golden Dawn.
The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and initiation like the Masonic Lodges, however women were admitted on an equal basis with men. The "Golden Dawn" was the first of three Orders, although all three are often collectively referred to as the "Golden Dawn".
The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the Hermetic Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of the four Classical Elements as well as the basics of astrology, tarot divination, and geomancy.
The Second or "Inner" Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold), taught proper magic, including scrying, astral travel, and alchemy.
The Third Order was that of the "Secret Chiefs", who were said to be highly skilled; they supposedly directed the activities of the lower two orders by spirit communication with the Chiefs of the Second Order.
HistoryThe first Golden Dawn temple was founded in London in 1888. The organisation went through a golden age in the 1890's , attracting some celebrities, including William Butler Yeats and Aleister Crowley. By 1900 it was active in the USA, but in the 1900's it went through various internal upheavals and several splinter groups evolved. The last Golden Dawn temples ceased operating in the 1970's.SInce then several several organizations, such as The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, have revived its teachings and rituals.
InfluencesInfluences on Golden Dawn concepts and work include: Christian mysticism, Qabalah, Hermeticism, the religion of Ancient Egypt, Theurgy, Freemasonry, Alchemy, Theosophy, Eliphas Levi, Papus, Enochian magic, and Renaissance grimoires.
Structure and grades
First OrderIntroduction—Neophyte 0=0
Second OrderAdeptus Minor 5=6
Adeptus Major 6=5
Adeptus Exemptus 7=4
Third OrderMagister Templi 8=3
The paired numbers attached to the Grades relate to positions on the Tree of Life. The Neophyte Grade of "0=0" indicates no position on the Tree. In the other pairs, the first numeral is the number of steps up from the bottom (Malkuth), and the second numeral is the number of steps down from the top (Kether).
The First Order Grades were related to the four elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, respectively. The Aspirant to a Grade received instruction on the metaphysical meaning of each of these Elements and had to pass a written examination and demonstrate certain skills to receive admission to that Grade.
The Portal Grade was an "Invisible" or in-between grade separating the First Order from the Second Order. The Circle of existing Adepts from the Second Order had to consent to allow an Aspirant to be initiated as an Adept and join the Second Order.
The Second Order was not, properly, part of the "Golden Dawn", but a separate Order in its own right, known as the R.R. et A.C. The Second Order directed the teachings of the First Order and was the governing force behind the First Order.
After passing the Portal, the Aspirant was instructed in the techniques of practical magic. When another examination was passed, and the other Adepts consented, the Aspirant attained the Grade of Adeptus Minor (5=6). There were also four sub-Grades of instruction for the Adeptus Minor, again relating to the four Outer Order grades.
A member of the Second Order had the power and authority to initiate aspirants to the First Order, though usually not without the permission of the Chiefs of his or her Lodge.
adapted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermetic_Order_of_the_Golden_Dawn
See also tarot