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The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
On 12 February 1888, three Freemasons—William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell “MacGregor” Mathers—signed pledges of fidelity to, and thereby founded, a new occult society called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which would become the most influential hermetic society of the nineteenth century. Members were recruited through word of mouth and by notices published in the Theosophical journal Lucifer (Gilbert, Golden 1-2). They practiced and trained initiates in using natural magic to enrich one’s connection with a spiritual realm of being. Although secretive, the Golden Dawn was both the product of, and an influential contributor to, a broader social investment in the occult. It peaked in popularity and influence in the 1890s before dissipating due to internal conflicts.