The Secret Society that Brought Magic to the Modern Age
My latest article, The Secret Society that Brought Magic to the Modern Age, is now up at The Daily Grail (a website you should check every day if you like all things fortean, esoteric, and unusual—trust me).
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (not to be confused with the Greek fascist/anti-immigrant party, please) was a late 19th/early 20th century secret occult organization created by a group of Masonic Rosicrucians. Its members included writers and poets (including W. B. Yeats), artists, physicians, and aristocrats, all committed to exploring and remaking the magical Hermetic traditions of the past. Though the order fell apart in the early 20th century due to the usual magical bickering and ego-battles, its influence on modern spirituality and occultism is enormous.
If you've ever done a Tarot reading, for example, you were likely using cards based on the ubiquitous Rider-Waite deck and infused with Golden Dawn imagery and philosophy. From spiritual practices like Wicca and Neopaganism in all its varieties to trite books like The Secret, you can find links to the order's teachings, and it's doubtful that the now-trendy Kabbalah would have emerged from its niche among Jewish mystics had this pioneering group of Victorian mages not wrapped an entire system of magical philosophy around it.
Much of what falls under the umbrella of "New Age" spirituality, in fact, comes directly from the men and women mages of this pioneering magical society.