This is the third post in a series about Charles Williams and the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. You can access the others via this index.
First, what about the Golden Dawn? The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was, or is, a magical secret society that combines elements from many traditions into a syncretistic ritual. It was founded in the 19th century. It claims some relationship with the Rosicrucian, or Rosy Cross, tradition. I am unclear as to what its relationship with Rosicrucianism really is, and would be happy of information on this point. I do not know whether it is a revival, a continuation, or a splinter group of Rosicrucianism, or, on the other hand, whether it incorporated Rosicrucian content into its syncretistic whole.
There are varying stories of its ultimate origins of the Rosicrucian tradition. Here are the two most common. First, the Order traces its beginnings to one Christian Rosenkreuz, who may or may not have been an actual 15th century personage. Several texts attributed to him are extant, which are claimed as the founding documents of the Order. Second, a more general legendary tradition is based on the supposed writings of Hermes Trismegistus, who may have been an Egyptian, Greek, or Roman deity.
In any case, what did members of the Golden Dawn actually do? Of course, this is a difficult question to answer, since its rituals and practices are officially secret. But here is what I have been able to learn. They probably used, studied, practiced, or otherwise engaged in:
the Sephirotic Tree
So, they engaged in many practices that have traditionally been shunned by Christians, but which claim a long secret partnership with Christianity.
There were many famous members of one or another branch of the Golden Dawn throughout its later 19th-century and early 20th-century days, including Aleister Crowley, W.B. Yeats, Algeron Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and Evelyn Underhill.