Note: Click on some photographs to see enlarged version. 
Let me start with one or two definitions of ritual magick. I had to peruse a lot of books before I found anyone who was even willing to take a stab at a definition. Finally, from Francis King's Techniques of High Magic: Magic(k) is the art and science of using little known natural forces in order to achieve changes in consciousness and in the physical environment. 
We also use the word magic(k) to mean the entire body of doctrines and techniques concerning the conjuration, nature and power of angels, spirits, demons and other non-human entities; the manufacture and consecration of wands, swords and other implements used by magicians in the performance of their art; ritual divination by such methods of geomancy; the manufacture and consecration of talismans; and the exploration of universes other than that with which we are familiar. William G. Gray adds: "Definition of Magic is largely a matter of individual opinion--fundamentally it means man's ((or woman's)) most determined effort to establish an actual working relationship through himself between his inner and outer states of being.

  Magick is also said to be the science and art of realizing the divine self by changing the   human self. The wand, cup, sword, pentacle, incense, robe, lamp, and geometric designs are used and the mind is stimulated by sights, sounds, scents, dramatic gestures and emotional exaltation so as to focus the will into a blazing stream of pure energy wholly concentrated upon one idea only.
In the 1880's in London, the Theosophical Society held sway as the big occult organization, but it was too much talk and not enough action, occult lite. There was a need for something a little heavier and that something was the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn. . An unsolved mystery surrounds the startup of the Golden Dawn. A prominent Rosicrucian German adept, Fraulein Sprengel, allegedly handed Westcott a bunch of pseudo-Masonic rituals and told him to start up an order, the English version of the "Goldene Dammerung." 

   Dr. Wynn Wescott

The mystery is whether Fraulein Sprengel actually existed. Meanwhile an impoverished young man called Samuel Liddell "MacGregor" Mathers sat day after day in the British Museum Reading Room translating earlier works on Cabala. Earlier in the century a defrocked French priest, Eliphas Levi, had written extensively on magick and had linked the tarot cards with the cabalistic Tree of Life. There was also esoteric knowledge from the Rosicrucians
In l888, Mathers, William Wynn Westcott (a coroner), and an elderly man named Dr.Woodman pulled it all together and formed the Magical Order of the Golden Dawn. The trio had all been members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.
The Golden Dawn thrived for awhile. MacGregor Mathers, who was married to Mina Bergson, came upon his personal ATM machine in the person of Annie Hornimann. (The Hornimann Museum, owned by her family, can be visited today in Forest Hill, a suburb of London). Florence Farr, an actress whom George Bernard Shaw said was in "...violent reaction against Victorian morals, especially sexual and domestic..." added sparkle to their membership. Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance, was a member, as was the poet William Butler Yeats.
Then everyone began fighting. Yeats could not abide Aleister Crowley and noted that an occult order did not double as a reform school. Mathers tossed Annie Hornimann out of the society for being rebellious and bossy. He later had to get her back in when he needed her money. Eventually Mathers and his wife moved to Paris and became further removed from the goings on in England. He now considered himself the head of the order. Of the original three founders, Woodman was long dead. Westcott became less active, fearing that his membership might get him in trouble at work.
In the spring of 1900, MacGregor Mathers made a heavyhanded attempt to bring the English  division under control, demanding that the members sign a loyalty oath declaring Mathers and Mathers alone to be the head of the order. The members had to agree that Westcott's papers from Fraulein Sprengel were fraudulent; that Westcott had never been in communication with Secret Chiefs, and that MacGregor alone has been (past and present) in contact with Secret Chiefs. The man whom Mathers sent to London to exact the loyalty oaths was none other than Aleister Crowley. This affair culminated in the famous battle at 36 Blythe Road, London, on 19 April. Crowley had stormed to the door of the London lodge, demanding to take over its contents. The locks on the door had been hastily changed. Willie Yeats met Crowley at the 
door and denied him access to the premesis. Crowley was soundly rebuffed. (see book by Ellic Howe, "The Magicians of the Golden Dawn.")

The Horos affair of l901 was significant to the history of Magickal Societies in that it had a devastating effect on the Golden Dawn Society. Indeed, it caused the wholesale desertion of many of its members! Mrs. Horos, aka Swami Viva Ananda, was quite plump; her husband, as thin as a pencil. The couple hailed from the US of A, at one point living in the Washington suburb of Glen Echo. In l899 they went to Paris, and deceived McGregor Mathers into thinking that they were great adepts. Somehow, they shook Mathers down for a lot of Golden Dawn manuscripts. Mrs. Horos also put in a claim to be an influential member of the Theosophical Society. 
The couple jumped over to London and tried to set up a bogus Golden Dawn. They took rooms at 99 Gower Street, where they were eventually thrown out by their landlady. One reason given was that they preached vegetarianism while gorging themselves with meat. More important, they didn't pay their rent. The Horos couple wound up in prison for raping a young woman under the guise of ritual magic. Meanwhile the Neophyte ritual of the Golden Dawn, as well as the oath, wound up in the newspapers. Too many of the Golden Dawn members felt downright silly.
Shortly after this disaster, a huge schism occurred in London's Isis-Urania temple. A committee of three was established: Dr.. Felkin, J. W. Brodie-Innes, and M. W. Blackden. Enter A. E. Waite, who wanted to get the order into his own hands and got it after a lot of political maneuvering. The temple that he and Blackden set up abandoned the practice of ritual magick and astral travel and revised the rituals to what Francis King called a somewhat torturous Christian mysticism. No one seems to have many good things to say about the notoriously longwinded Waite. Waite and Bhlackden appointed W. A. Ayton as their 3rd chief, an elderly clergyman who Yeats described as the most timid man he had ever met. Ayton had urged Yeats never to participate in evocation, as "even the Olympic Planetary Spirits turn against us in the end." He once claimed to have discovered the "elixir of life" in his laboratory but just as he had poured it out to drink it, a long-winded visitor came to the door and the elixir evaporated. That's life! The Waite temple existed until 1914 when it imploded amidst internal squabble. Dr. Felkin and those London members who desired to carry on in the magickal tradition formed their own temple, the Amoun Temple.

Aleister Crowley and the Rites of Eleusius: In Cairo, during three days in April l904, Aleister Crowley received a direct voice communication from a non-human entity called Aiwass, that directed Crowley to start a new religion with himself as its chief. Crowley formed the Astrum Argentinum or A.A. Crowley's group used slightly modified versions of the Golden Dawn rituals. In March l909 Crowley began publishing the Equinox, in which he boldly published a lot of the rituals of the outer order of the Golden Dawn and said that the Secret Chiefs had beckoned him to do so. Crowley and Mathers, very cozy a few years back, had since had a falling out. Mathers tried to use the courts to halt publication but lacked the financial resources to carry it very far. These legal maneuvers caused a bit of publicity.
In l910 the secret orders landed again in the public eye. There was perhaps money to be made in magick! Crowley contrived a performance, based on the dancing of his then-friend Victor Neuburg ((like many Crowley knew, he would later go on to have a falling out with Neuburg, after he had wrecked the man's mental and physical health to the point where Neuburg fled from the Atlantis Bookshop on Museum Street when Aleister walked in)).Leila Waddell played the violin. Each performance consisted of Neuburg's dancing down a particular god while Leila fiddled and Aleister recited explanatory poetry. The audience got a drug with their admission fee to help them get into the mood of the thing. At the performance' end a curtain was pulled aside as Crowley proclaimed that there was NO GOD behind the curtain. Man was there free to do what he willed. The address for this performance was 124 Victoria Street, then Caxton. Eventually the police had to break up the "rites." Another "suit-case" ensued as the Looking Glass had suggested that certain sexual irregularities had occurred in the dark. Captain Fuller urged Aleister to issue a writ for libel. Somehow, Crowley thought that this might not be a sound move. George Cecil Jones, who had also been slandered, did go ahead with the court case, which turned into a fiasco. Ione de Forrest, a teenager who had been hired to dance in the Rites, later met the fate of a goodly number of Crowley's friends, winding up a has been theorized that Crowley needed to be dominant at all times and throughout his life became a magnet for unstable types who were willing to be dominated.


 Israel Regardie 

   Francis Israel Regardie was born in England in 1907 but his family moved to the Washington, D. C. area of the United States when he was 13. Regardie had learned about Crowley when he was a very young man and wrote to him. Aleister, in turn, invited Regardie to become his personal secretary (unpaid).In return, Regardie was to get personal magickal instruction. This was in l928. Israel had to tell his parents some kind of song and dance to get out of the house. He certainly did not tell them that he was going to work for the self-proclaimed "most wicked man in the world," the Great Beast, #666. 

  Regardie met Crowley in Paris. First thing, Aleister asked him if he had any money in his pockets. Regardie handed over his meager life savings, which Crowley proceeded to spend on champagne and brandy. Regardie describes himself as being a bit disturbed by his first dinner with Crowley. When it came time for the cognac, Crowley pounced on his current Scarlet Woman, Miroslava, and they had sex right on the floor. 
The older man and the younger man had a successful magickal relationship for some years. Regardie got numerous books published. In his mega-work "The Golden Dawn" he told everything about the secret order that anyone would ever want to know, so the secret order no longer had any secrets. Regardie had joined the Stella Matutina in l934 and saw that this successor to the Golden Dawn was in a great state of disarray. The chiefs did not measure up to his magickal standards. No one knew how to play Enochean Chess, where the chessmen were Egyptian gods. Regardie thought that the state of affairs was so sorry that the order and its teachings would not survive unless the materials were made public. He left the Stella Matutina, broke his vow of secrecy and published almost all of the secrets. This publication had a devastating effect on the Stella Matutina as well as the Alpha and Omega. Both organizations came to a halt, ceasing to take neophytes. The A.O. took its temple banners and buried them along with the personal magickal instruments of Ms. Tranchell-Hayes, in a cliff on the south coast--where they all washed up on the beach 30 years later!
  Eventually the two men had a bitter quarrel. Regardie had send Crowley one of his recent books. Perhaps it was one book too many, student getting ahead of teacher. Regardie had begun using the first name of "Francis" and Aleister started joking about the name. Regardie countered by writing a letter that began "Dear Alice, you really are a contemptible bitch." Aleister decided to go public. He sent a scurrilous, anti-Semitic letter about Regardie to all of their acquaintances, accusing him of every vice from masturbation to constipation! (Can you imagine what fun everyone would have had if email had been at their disposal in those days!) Still, Regardie claimed until the day of his death, "Everything I am today, I owe to him."
Violet Firth, nom de plume Dion Fortune, was a crucial figure in the magickal revival. She cited both Crowley and Mathers as sources in her most famous book "The Mystical Qabalah." Fortune founded her own magickal order, the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Mina (Moina) Mathers was initially agreeable to her friend's founding of this order. (McGregor Mathers had died in 1918, a casualty of the worldwide "Spanish Flu" epidemic. Mina had continued to run the order, now metamorphosed into the Alpha et Omega. The once-secret order, under Mina's leadership, had become watered down, with correspondence lessons and mail order initiations. Dion Fortune's group was doing much better, engaging in astral travel and getting trance messages from Masters. 
The once amiable relationship with Mrs. Mathers was brought to a close. According to Fortune, Mina tried to fight back by use of black magick and full scale psychic attacks. She even tried to push her out of the astral plane. Some of these issues are addressed in Fortune's book "Psychic Self-Defense." The book instructs in the proper way to take a "specimen" -- a psychometric specimen--if you are under a psychic attack, and you are trying to diagnose whether it is caused by human or non-human interference. Such a "specimen" can be a lock of hair or a ring that someone wears a lot, especially a ring of a crystalline substance, which is said to be good at holding magnetism. Dion warns that you have to be careful not to contaminate the specimen by carrying it around in your own pocket for a couple of days, and it should be wrapped in black or white silk from a new bolt of cloth, not from a piece of your old nightgown.
Dion Fortune survived the attacks on London during World War II. When it was too dangerous for members of her society to meet, they sat in their own drawing rooms and communicated via the astral plane. Eventually she was bombed out of her house. She died a few years after the war. After her death, the Fraternity of the Inner Light "christianized" itself and in the opinion of Gerald Suster therefore "castrated" itself. Two excellent writers on ritual magick. W. E. Butler and Basil Wilby (aka Gareth Knight) lived on as disciples of Dion Fortune. Butler founded the "Servants of the Light," an organization which exists today.
Aleister Crowley died in Hastings, England in 1947, leaving behind another young man who had chosen to study with him and work as an unpaid secretary, Kenneth Grant. 
Aleister died in poverty, but what a resurrection he has had! And if you doubt it, just punch in his name in any search engine!
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