So given the many things that Golden Dawn could be, we need a definition what is Golden Dawn. As a working definition, let’s borrow from John Michael Greer, and say that a Golden Dawn lodge is a group of people who come together to pool resources for a common purpose while using the rituals and material of Golden Dawn to further their way towards that common purpose.
The definition is a little wordy, but it is much simpler than many essay length definitions I have seen. And it does have the advantage of allowing change to happen in the system, the only constant is being the base line rituals and material.
The definition does have the disadvantage of leaving the door open to any group that decides to use the published Golden Dawn material to call itself Golden Dawn. Personally, I would consider not doing that; may I suggest the term “Golden Dawn based group” instead. Between certain legal issues (a small trademark dispute) and the large amount of expectations and misconceptions about what Golden Dawn is, claiming that one’s is the Golden Dawn is a hazard that one should really look carefully at before stepping into that particular bog.
So given our definition, what should the common goal of a Golden Dawn based group be? And who should decide what it is?
My suggestion is that the purpose should be decided by the members of the group. And I would also not set it into stone too solidly. Yes, by doing so, it does allow the purpose of a group to change as the membership changes (as new members join, and old members leave). I realize that having a fluid, ever-changing purpose will distress some people (for them, there are several Golden Dawn Orders whose purpose is set in stone).
Probably the most common purpose, and the one that Bast Temple (and the BIORC) was set up for, is to perform the initiation rituals and study the Golden Dawn material (both the published and unpublished material). And yes, it may seem strange to advise a changeable purpose when the one I belong to has a set purpose; having such a mission statement on the top of the bylaws is always an option, and besides we don’t say what material we are focused on--the focus of the group’s studies changes as the membership does.
So given the fact that the membership of the group decides the purpose, who decides the membership?
In many Golden Dawn groups, this honor goes to the original founder(s) of the group. This tactic is rooted in the General Orders issued by Mathers--one is granted membership by, and is allowed to continue as a member, only by the sufferance of the Chief Adept.
This is where I part paths with a lot of people. I think, that after the initial membership is gathered, the membership should be allowed to determine who is allowed to join. It works for the Freemasons; why not Golden Dawn based groups?
Many people will answer that it completely ignores the whole spiritual development concept of Golden Dawn, something that may not be in play in all Golden Dawn based groups. Besides what new Golden Dawn group, or old one for that matter, can claim to be enlightened, or have made significant progress on that route? After all, what good would an Order have for an enlightened being?