Biography of Kenneth MacKenzie
Kenneth MacKenzie (1833-1886) was a noted Rosicrucan, Freemasonic scholar, and the true founder of what eventually became the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Mackenzie was born in London as the son of Dr. Rowland Hill Mackenzie and his wife Gertrude. In 1844 his family moved to Vienna, where in approximately 1850 MacKenzie was initiated as a Rosicrucian by Hungarian Count Apponyi.
As a young man, MacKenzie had an impressive knowledge of German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and had a precocious talent for antiquarian studies. He was author of the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia (1877). In 1861 Mackenzie visited the famous French occultist Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse Louis Constant) in Paris and published vivid personal recollections of the man and his outlook in The Rosicrucian, the journal of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. He also studied occultism with Frederick Hockley (1808-1885).
Mackenzie became a Freemason in 1870, but never even applied for membership of the Societas Rosciruciana in Anglia (SRIA), which it was later falsely alleged he supposedly helped to establish. In 1872, he married Alexandrina Aydon, who was fifteen years younger than he was.
W. Wynn Wescott, in his History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia writes not only of:
“MacKenzie’s Rosicrucian initiation in Austria while living with Count Apponyi as an English tutor,” but also writes that “MacKenzie had been in communication with German Adepts who claimed a descent from previous generations of Rosicrucians that had admitted him to some grades of their system and had permitted him to attempt the foundation of a group of Rosicrucian students in England, who under the Rosicrucian name of the information that might form a partly esoteric society.”
W. Wynn Wescott here writes candidly about the true origins of Golden Dawn. In this context in the April 1874 edition of The Rosucrucian, Kenneth MacKenzie makes cryptic reference to an elusive "Hermetic Order of Egypt.” In his Royal Masonic Cyclopedia, MacKenzie adds that
“to these Hermetic Brothers of Egypt appertains the Philosopher’s Stone and the elixir of life, the art of invisibility, and the power of communication with the ultramundane life.”
MacKenzie describes these elusive Rosicrucian Adepts that:
“they are men of moderate competence, blameless lives, austere manners, and almost ascetic in their habits…”.
In describing their method of teaching, MacKenzie states that :
“they cheerfully answered questions, but appeared not to court enquiries.”
S.L. MacGregor Mathers met in 1891 these “Secret Chiefs” in Paris. In describing these secret Rosicrucian Adepts, MacKenzies’ comments are interesting that:
"they courted no publicity,” and that “They never remained long in one country, but passed away without creating notice, or wishing for undue respect to be paid to them.”
Upon his return to England, Kenneth MacKenzie founded this esoteric society that would later become the Golden Dawn under the original name of “Fratres Lucis” or “Brethren of the Cross of Light.” MacKenzie’s temple was Number one, followed by the Bristol temple of F.G. Irwin as Number two. Isis-Urania therefore became Temple Number three when the Golden Dawn was "founded" in 1888. The teachings for this order were coded using Trithemius “Stenographia” as “Cypher Manuscripts” that were later obtained by Wescott from MacKenzie’s widow following the latter’s death in 1886.