One of the things that has been part of the Golden Dawn since its original formation is the Secret Chiefs. Basically, the Secret Chiefs are beings that are considered to be the true rulers of the Golden Dawn system.
If they exist, I am quite sure that they do not like me. I have been in too many occult groups where the leaders have dodged behind the ruse of communication with the Secret Chiefs to claim to be able to do whatever they wanted to without any regard to the health of the group. To say that I am a loud protester is perhaps a understatement. Quite simply, I believe that whenever a Officer invokes the authority of the Secret Chiefs, things have gone very wrong and perhaps it is time to flee.
How did the concept of the Secret Chiefs get wrapped up in the system of Golden Dawn? Quite simply, they were a method (most likely a fraud) to justify the formation of Golden Dawn. Even today, there is a belief that only someone with a lineage and enlightenment can run an occult Order. Golden Dawn is based on a Cipher Manuscript; it does not actually give anyone the authority to start an Order based on it.
So Golden Dawn started off without any charter or warrant. The founders had no authority to start a new esoteric Order. Without a charter from a Mother Lodge, they needed something to be able to satisify the demands of the members for some form of legitimacy. What they decided to use was a old trick.
Today, we are more likely to associate the concept of the Secret Chiefs with Theosophy. But that is only partially true. The concept of enlightened beings, who are hidden from profane view, is a part of the beliefs of many spiritual systems. The Kabbalists have the thirty-six righteous, who guard the existence of the world (there are similar concepts in other systems).
And more importantly, for us, is the fact that certain branches of Freemasonry (such as the Strict Observance) included the concept in their systems. While many say that the concept of the Secret Chiefs come into Golden Dawn from Theosophy, I suspect that it is equally likely that the founders lifted the concept from Freemasonry.
So do the Secret Chiefs actually exist in Golden Dawn? Yes and No. Odds are that if you hear a leader saying that they are in contact with them, that things are already going bad (leaders who tend to invoke them are notorious for abusing their power). On the other hand, the concept of the Secret Chiefs does explain certain phenomena that one can encounter when using the system; though claiming authority from them is like building a system on the advice of the Qlippoth.
My personal advice to all is to treat the Secret Chiefs as a myth, and nothing more. If the Secret Chiefs really exist, they would chose vessals that are hidden, or at least more humble than those who shout their contact with them at the top of their lungs.