Were Samuel Macgregor Mathers and William Wynn Westcott actually initiates of the Hermetic Golden Dawn? At first glance, this question seems clear cut, and perhaps a little stupid. But then again, I cruise in that back corner were the clearer a question appears, the more you need to reexamine the issue to figure out what it really going on.
This particular question came about because of VH Frater SR's comment to one of my previous blog posts where I was wondering exactly who was denying the connection between Golden Dawn and Freemasonry. Once I heard his response, I realized that I am one of the people he is talking about denying the connection.
Because I do not force people to join Freemasonry, and point out that they are two different Orders, I am helping deny the connection and worth of Freemasonry. *sigh* I should have known that I was one of the deniers.
For the record, I believe that Freemasonry is valuable resource for some people. But given the fact that most of the people I know only have time to be active in one Order, and they tend to be interested in the occult, I tend to emphasize Golden Dawn over Freemasonry. I also belong to an Order with female members, therefore emphasizing Freemasonry tends to put them in a bad position (almost a second-class position if you ask me).
Also because I consider Golden Dawn starting in 1888, and having no previous lineage that has the right of rulership over the modern Golden Dawn, I am helping deny the connection. *sigh* As I said, I should have realized that I was guilty.
For the record: Yes, Westcott and Mathers were Master Masons. In Westcott's case, he was a member of a lot of Orders (not as many as Waite, but close). Yes, we have to say that part of their personal lineage comes from Freemasonry. But I am not sure that we can claim that any of their authority to rule Golden Dawn came from that particular direction. Today, we tend to think of Freemasonry as the Mother of all Orders. Perhaps it is.
Then again, I am one of the orphans who have serious doubts about the worth of an unbroken lineage. Of course, that may just because I have encountered a few people who considered their lineage better than mine, therefore they thought that they were more fit to rule than the people I answered to. I have seen the utter messes that these lineage pounders have made of their groups. Extinct groups abound that were built on the claim of lineage.
Heck, if I wanted to play that game, I could claim that part of my lineage traces though the EOEW. I could claim that based on the symbolism of the "RED" degree that I have been exposed to the Adeptus Major Grade energies...but I don't. Why? Because they are different systems.
I am sorry, but I do not buy into the idea that because Westcott and Mathers were initiates of Freemasonry, or SRIA, or fill-in-the-blank Order that they were initiates of Golden Dawn. If it doesn't work for me to shore up my lineage, it should not work for them either.
As for them being physical initiates of Golden Dawn, my answer is: No, they were not. I do not buy into the theory that they were astral initates or self-initiates either. And ultimately, it does not matter that they were not.
Mathers and Westcott had gone though lodgekit bootcamp. They had a ton of lodge experience. They knew the symbolism contained in the Cipher Manuscript. And most importantly, Golden Dawn had no lineage predating 1888. Isis-Urania was the first Golden Dawn lodge. The Golden Dawn rituals were never worked before they started to work them.
Westcott, Mathers, and Woodman did not need a lineage to open up the energies of Golden Dawn. They were the elders of the tradition; they were the ones that laid the foundation of the system. They were the ones who built the door to the system and installed the locks. It is the rest of us that follow them that need a key to open the door to the system. Fortunately, for most of us, they were not the ones who drew up the initial blueprint of the Order (the Cipher Manuscript), otherwise most of us would be stuck outside freezing.