in the life of the Prophet of the Law of Thelema
was his initiation into that secret magical order
known then only to its members
as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Although he was only active in the Order for a few years,
and though he considered most of its members
to be mediocre nonentities
who had not been truly initiated,
the Prophet still viewed that original initiation
to the Golden Dawn grade of Neophyte
as his first contact,
with the Secret Chiefs,
and the beginning of the path
for which he took the name PERDURABO:
meaning, “I will endure to the end.”
Eventually, Brother Perdurabo would pass judgment on the Order,
and he would claim to have “destroyed” it
by publishing its secret rituals.
His later student Israel Regardie,
an initiate of the Golden Dawn offshoot Stella Matutina,
who published their secret rituals,
wrote of Perdurabo:
“This elaborate Golden Dawn system
“became part of [Aleister] Crowley’s own inner world ...
“He carried it further
“than even the Golden Dawn principals had envisaged.
“I know of nothing within the Order documentary
“that even hints at the kind
“of visionary and spiritual experience
“that Crowley managed to get out of it.”
Crowley eventually came to view
the Thelemic movement as the child
of the Theosophical Society on the one hand
and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn on the other.
He was brought into the Order
through an impressive ceremony,
staged in a Masonic Hall
with language drawn from ancient oracles
and the Hellenized mysteries of Egypt.
He was directed to study the Kabbalah,
to learn an elaborate system of esoteric correspondences,
and to aspire toward his own higher nature.
The Order furnished him with two mentors:
George Cecil Jones and Allan Bennett.
It also provided him with rivals
like Arthur Edward Waite.
Waite had in fact primed Crowley for the Golden Dawn.
When Crowley first took interest in the occult,
he had written the author Waite,
who directed him to read The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary,
with its description
of an invisible church or secret college—
fueling an appetite for the sort of secret order
that the Golden Dawn strove to be.
Like many forms of esoteric freemasonry,
the Golden Dawn gave out new passwords
to the members twice per year.
Whereas Masons would change their word
on the feasts of the Saints John
at midsummer and midwinter;
the Golden Dawn password was issued instead
at the equinoxes of spring and fall,
with a rotation of the temple officers,
in an elegant ceremony
designed to illustrate the principles
of cosmic equilibrium.
Crowley not only divined a word at each equinox
for the order A.'.A.'. that he grew
after the Golden Dawn schisms,
but he called his celebrated occult journal The Equinox,
and he took the Golden Dawn’s equinox ceremony
as the formal type of the cosmic change
manifesting through the Cairo Working
by which he received The Book of the Law
and became the Prophet of Thelema.
He called this event
an Equinox of the Gods.
In a letter to a disciple,
Crowley wrote that the Golden Dawn
was the context for an act of self-sacrifice
by which he proved himself to the Secret Chiefs
as material worthy of a Magus of the Aeon:
“I earned my chance to be chosen by the A.'.A.'.,”
“when I abandoned my Abramelin operation in 1900
“for the sake of my Brethren in the Golden Dawn.”
When the Golden Dawn was over,
there came a daytime of many orders
seeking to perpetuate the streams of knowledge
that it had originally dispensed.
The old Chief Mathers continued it as Alpha et Omega.
Various English adepts organized Stella Matutina.
Waite offered a Christianized “Holy” Golden Dawn.
Crowley continued the use of the letters G.D.
in his A.'.A.'. system,
along with the Word of the Equinox,
the kabbalistic system of Grades,
and a radically reformed Neophyte ceremony.
He at first rejected the lodge-based socialization
that he thought had poisoned the original order.
But when he became head of O.T.O.,
another lodge-based society,
he infused certain elements of the Golden Dawn
into his revisions of the Order’s rituals.
And now I invite you
to join us in celebrating the heritage
of that sublime occasion, when
—as he explained in his analysis
of the formula of this initiation—
a thing inert and impotent
was endowed with balanced motion
in a given direction,
a direction that would culminate in his case
with the Law of a New Aeon.