Did W.W. Wescott try to steal the Golden Dawn's
Rosucrucian Lineage for the S.R.I.A.?
By David Griffin
G.H. Frater Lux Ex Septentrionis
Imperator Ordinis, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Chief Adept, R.R. et A.C., Rosicrucian Mystery School of AΩ
The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) originated in Edinburgh on December 31, 1866, when Robert Wentworth Little (1840-1878) and William Haughan were initiated into a Rosicrucian Society in Scotland. This society was based on an earlier Rosicrucian society in England about which little is known, except that it is likely of Britanic origin and that the ritual they used had no relationship to the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order in Germany.
The reliability of the SRIA possessing any sort of legitimate Rosicrucian affiliation has been seriously compromised by two false stories about its origins historically propagated by the society. According to the first story: "An 18th century Italian Ambassador came to England who possessed certain Rosicrucian secrets, the authority to confer grades and to pass on to disciples that authority. Among the last of those disciples was Grand Secretary, W.H. White. White initiated R.W. Little into the secrets of the fraternity and gave him the authority to recruit others. Little later found some Rosicrucian papers in the cellar of Freemasons' Hall which became the ritual of SRIA." A version of this story was deliberately propagated by the society with the knowledge of the High Council, when W. Wynn Wescott published it in "The Historical Notes of the SRIA." The only proof of this story cited by Wescott was the first page of a letter written by Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of England, T.F. Ravenshaw. This story was later proven to be false and every shred of evidence refuted in a paper by Freemasonic researcher Bruce Wilson in 1947. The aforementioned letter had been published by Wescott in incomplete form, for example. Bruce Wilson found and published the entire letter, the second page of which clearly demonstrated that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the SRIA, but rather with the Red Cross of Constantine.
The second story concerned Kenneth MacKenzie (1833-1866) and was first circulated in 1892. The story alleged that: "MacKenzie had early in his life been the tutor of Count Apponyi in Austria, where he was initiated into the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order (FA+RC) and given the IX degree. He was further given the authority to establish a Rosicrucian society in England, which he then communicated to Little." MacKenzie was listed as a Past Magus of the SRIA on a leaflet stating the aims of the society in 1892, signed by then Secretary General W.J. Ferguson. The attempt to posthumously frame MacKenzie as the founder of the society, and thus claim for the SRIA an affiliation deriving from the Fraternitas Aureae et Rosae Crucis in Germany, reached new depths of depravity when even the original Society register was altered. MacKenzie's name originally stood as number 114. This was altered to 0. This story was also refuted and the relevant forgeries exposed by Bruce Wilson. Wilson also explained how the fiction of MacKenzie as the founder of SIRA was quickly dropped, but survived in a modified form wherein MacKenzie was said to have unofficially helped Little in founding the order in 1865.
In his 1947 paper, "The Origin of our Rosicrucian Society," Wilson reveals an astonishing discovery. It turns out that Kenneth MacKenzie actually had been initiated into a Rosicrucian society and had indeed received a warrant from Count Apponyi. Furthermore, MacKenzie did actually use this warrant to found a Rosicrucian organization, but it was not the SRIA! Wilson reveals that the warranted organization was none other than the first phase of the Golden Dawn, as a branch of a Continental society called the Brothers of Light. This is a reference to the Order of the Asiatic Brethren (also called the Ritter und Bruder des Lichts or Knights and Brothers of Light).
The Asiatic Brethren was a schismatic Rosicrucian order founded in 1780 by then member of the Gold und Rosenkreutz order Hans Heinrich von Ecker und Eckhoffen (1750-1790). Interestingly, the Asiatic Brethren was a Rosicrucian order which allowed Jews among its members at a time that antisemitism was rampant in Germany. Among its Jewish members figured prominent Qabalists from the heretical sect of Sabatai Zevi such as Ephraim Hirschfeld (?- 1819) and Thomas von Schonfeld (whose real name was Moses Dobrucshka). Thus the order of the Asiatic Brethren holds a unique place in the history of the Rosicrucian tradition, as having fully developed its Qabalistic aspect for the first time. Interestingly, the Sabataian Qabalah of the Asiatic Brethren is of the same nature as that later found in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, although Golden Dawn Qabalah also incorporates another stream descending from the Christian Qabalah of the Italian Renaissance.
Bruce Wilson, in his revolutionary paper, goes on to explain that two temples of "Brothers of Light" were founded in England (Hermanoubis Temple N 2 was in Bristol under F.G. Irwin), but that they waited in vain for the rituals which were never completed. This explains why, when the triad of Woodman, MacGregor Mathers, and Westcott was completed, the Isis-Urania Temple was numbered as Temple N 3, since it was originally envisioned as a continuation of the first phase of the Golden Dawn. This likely also explains the origins of the mysterious "cypher manuscripts," which later fell into the hands of Wescott and eventually became the rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The cypher manuscripts were certainly the skeletal formula for the rituals of the society created by Kenneth MacKenzie to receive the Apponyi Rosicrucian affiliation and transmission.
Bruce Wilson's landmark study today raises as many questions as it made revelations in 1947. First of all, why would W. Wynn Wescott attempt to appropriate for the SRIA the Rosicrucian affiliation given by Kenneth MacKenzie to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn? In the process Wescott caused great harm to both societies, creating falsehoods and illusions about their origins while depriving the Golden Dawn of its rightful heritage.
Secondly, why has the information contained in Wilson's 1947 paper not become common public knowledge prior to this present writing? In fact, when mention was first made of the Wilson paper in the third edition of SRICF (the American version of SRIA) researcher Harold Voorhis' book, A History of Organized Masonic Rosicrucianism, the SRIA broke off all relations with SRICF due to this incident for several years. Why did the SRIA behave in this odd way?
Finally, one must note that the most widely published researcher of the history the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, R.A. Gilbert, is also a high ranking member of SRIA. Why is it in his thorough study of the history of this Hermetic Order, "The Golden Dawn, Twilight of the Magicians," Gilbert merely quotes "en passant" Wescott's recounting of the origins of the SRIA, with no mention whatsoever that these stories, together with the alleged Rosicrucian affiliation of the SRIA, have been thoroughly discredited? Indeed, why is there no mention whatsoever of Bruce Wilson's research, essential to an understanding of the Rosicrucian affiliation of the Golden Dawn, in any of Gilbert's publicly published works? Gilbert certainly must have been aware of Wilson's research. All of these things taken together give a compelling impression of an attempt to suppress the information revealed by Bruce Wilson's research, while maintaining a public illusion of an SRIA Rosicrucian affiliation and concealing the Golden Dawn's true and rightful Rosicrucian heritage through Kenneth MacKenzie.