The O.G.D.U. serves as a preparatory school and training ground in the Golden Dawn traditions of, Hermetics, Qabalah, Alchemy, and many other aspects of the Western Mysteries. The process of initiation is the first step of the intense training and study which sets in motion the necessary alchemical fire needed to transform the inner lead into gold. It happens through tradition and transmission of the Light imparted to the initiate through the initiation ceremony of the Neophyte.

In the Golden Dawn system, there are five grades that each initiate must traverse. They are Neophyte, Zelator, Theoricus, Practicus, and Philosophus. All of the grades within the Golden Dawn system are associated with one element, the only exception being Neophyte. The grades of Zelator to Philosophus are additionally attributed to particular sephiroth on the Tree of Life.

Zelator – Earth (Malkuth)
Practicus – Water (Hod)
Theoricus – Air (Yesod)
Philosophus – Fire (Netzach)

There is an Invisible grade that is not of the Outer Order and yet not fully of the Inner Order that is called the grade of Portal. This grade relates to Spirit, by which the four elements must be ruled. It is the completion and perfection of the pentagram with the top point of Spirit ruling the lower four points of the elements. The Portal grade also relates to the veil being torn asunder, the Veil of Paroketh, that was split in two in the sanctuary when Christ expired upon the Cross of Suffering.

An initiate of the Golden Dawn does not become fully initiated into the Order until he or she enters the grade of Zelator, 1=10. This grade, relating to Malkuth and the element of Earth, is also the first grade depicted on the Cabalistic Tree of Life. It is the first sephira- our starting point- going up the Tree and the last sephira coming down from Kether, thus, we have the 1=10. Theoricus 2=9, relates to Yesod. Practicus, 3=8, relates to Hod. Philosophus, 4=7, relates to Netzach. It is only the grade of Neophyte that does not relate to a sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life so thus we have the numbers 0=0. It is in the grade of Neophyte that all the forces of inner alchemical transformation begin.

The Neophyte initiation, when conducted properly with the appropriate officers in the correct colors and with the correct symbolism, is an extremely potent and powerful force. The whole process of Western Mystery work far outreaches the information given to the new Neophyte as part of his or her grade material. The real transformation takes place first, in the initiation of 0=0, then on a daily basis in the experience we call “living.”

Each grade of the Order provides potent forces filled with rewards and challenges. It is not enough to be undaunted by the difficulty of occult study as is exclamed in the Neophyte Ceremony. We must learn to be undaunted by the challenge of occult/spiritual living. The candidate (maybe for the first time) is communicating with the Divine, to the principles of Light and to the “Great Work.” In a few words, the candidate is telling the Divine essence within, the “Higher Genuis,” that he or she wants to begin the journey of the “True Self” not the self governed by modern advertising or ego, but the “True and Secret Self.” The Higher Genius begins causing changes to manifest in the life of the aspirant. From a mundane point of view these changes may seem good or bad. From the mountain top, to the birds eye view of the Higher Genius, it is much like a chess strategy. When understood, it will allow the candidate, to place ┬áthe negative aspects of the ego in check.

Volumes can be written on the qualities that are acquired in each grade and through each initiation. Each grade carries within it the seed of reward and the challenges necessary to strengthen the spiritual self on the road of “Self-Mastery and the magical way of life.” The Golden Dawn is unlike the many new age groups who do not provide any safeguards for the student. Each grade, requires testing. Even after successful testing, the advancement into the next grade often requires permission from the local Temple Chiefs and the invisible Chiefs of the Order. These people keep an eagles eye on the candidate to make certain he or she will be capable of handling the force and energy of the next grade. Traditionally, there is a minimum time that must be spent in each grade before one can apply for advancement to the next grade. Determining when one should advance is by discussion with one’s mentors and must be recommended and approved by the Chiefs of the Second Order.

It is the grades of 0=0 Neophyte through 4=7 Philosophus that comprise the “Outer Order” or the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn does not (as many uninformed authors have declared), go beyond 4=7. Beyond 4=7 is the “Second Order” or the “Inner Order.” This is the governing Order of the Golden Dawn, but it is NOT the Golden Dawn!

There is a grade beyond 4=7 that is not of the Golden Dawn and is not really part of the Inner Order. It is called the grade of “Portal”. This grade is the crowning point of the Golden Dawn grades in that it is related to “spirit,” whereas the Outer grades are all related to a specific element.

Thus, when the student goes through the grades of the Order, he/she has balanced the internal elements within his/her Sphere of Sensation. And, if Portal is achieved, the student has formulated the complete pentagram in balance and harmony within one’s own Sphere of Sensation.

This is necessary and vital before one can approach the fountain of power awaiting beyond the veil of Paroketh in the Second Order. These energies are both rewarding and challenging, and they certainly cannot be obtained out of published books on the subject.

The grade of 5=6 is part of another Order referred to as the Second Order, it is also referred to as the Rosicrucian Order is also known with our Inner Order as the Collegium Spiritu Sancti (College of the Holy Spirit). The Second Order or Inner Order is not a part of the Golden Dawn Current. It is responsible for the governance of the Outer School. Portals may only be initiated into 5=6 of the Second Order by invitation after formal recommendations and accompanied evidences of one’s desire and dedication to the Great Work.

The historic Golden Dawn (not to be confused with any current group borrowing the name) was formulated as an official school and extension of the German Rosicrucians in 1887 in London, England. It was based in part on an elusive set of cipher documents. Although Ellic Howe in his book on the Golden Dawn makes a strong argument that the ciphers were forged, new information has risen to the surface that may illuminate a more clear and scintillating truth than Howe concluded. A document is currently being prepared that may open the doorway to their origins. The bottom line of the Golden Dawn System, is that initiations from 0=0 to 4=7 are highly effective in the area of providing inner alchemical transformations from coarse to fine, from lead to the fullest potential of gold. In plain English, the Golden Dawn system works! Much of our occult wisdom today, from Wicca to Tarot, from astrology to psychology can be directly traced to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In 1888, the Order began the process of initiation. With more than just the initiation of the individual, the Order initiated a re-awakening of the Western Mystery tradition. The Golden Dawn began the process of molding, teaching and building future Adepts in the art of Self-Mastery and practical Qabalah.

In essence, the Golden Dawn System was and is a curriculum of study and preparation of the Great Work! The Great Work is defined as: The purification of the spiritual nature, so that with the aid of the Divine, the Adept may overcome his/her human limitations and thus gradually raise and unite with the Divine Self. This is the True Self which is beyond birth and death. Thus, the Adept will learn his/her True Will and may persue the accomplishment of it, the Great Work. More than just a curriculum of study, the Golden Dawn System is an alchemical process that can only be accomplished through initiation.

Although today some Golden Dawn orders encompass a worldwide fraternity of like-minded men and women who seek “Inner Truth,” it is still, in many ways, a solitary path. Personal attention and work is a “must” in the process of spiritual development.