The Cipher Manuscript Mystery & the Source of the Golden Dawn

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You may view original Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript folios by clicking above.

The Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript is a collection of 60 folios that are the original source upon which the rituals and the knowledge lectures of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were originally based. They contain a series of magical initiation rituals corresponding to the spiritual elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire and a syllabus for a course of instruction in Qabalah and Hermetic magic, including Astrology, Tarot, Geomancy and Alchemy.

In 1887, William Wynn Wescott reportedly purchased the Cipher Manuscript from a bookstall on Farringdon Road in London. The manuscript folios were coded based on Trithemius' Stenographia. Between the pages of the manuscript Wescott reportedly found a sheet of paper with the name and address of a certain Fraulein Sprengel, an alleged Rosicrucian Adept living in Germany.

Westcott supposedly deciphered the manuscript and the ensuing rituals were written by  S.L. MacGregor Mathers. Westcott thereupon purportedly corresponded with Sprengel, who allegedly authorized him to found an English branch of the German occult society Zur Goldene Morgonröthe. Westcott, Mathers, and W. R. Woodman thereupon founded the Isis-Urania Temple number three of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888.

So runs the official story of the "founding" of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The truth, however, is somewhat different. In reality, Wynn Wescott obtained the Cipher Manuscripts from the widow of the famous Rosicrucian and Freemasonic researcher, Kenneth Mackenzie following the latter's death in 1886. Wescott then deliberately attempted to obscure this true source with the Fraulein Sprengel story. Why would William Wynn Wescott lie about the true origins of such important documents as the Cipher Manuscripts, as S. L. MacGregor Mathers later alleged?

To solve this mystery one must bear in mind that William Wynn Wescott was not merely a Chief of the Golden Dawn, but beginning in 1890 also became the Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA). In his “History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia,” Wescott writes not only of:

“Kenneth 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.”

It is clear that Wescott was aware not only of Kenneth MacKenzie’s Rosicrucian initiation and lineage, but also that much of the Anna Sprengel story actually is taken from MacKenzie's biography.

Wescott's SRIA had been founded in 1866 by Robert Wentworth Little but had no legitimate Rosicrucian lineage. Under Wescott’s tenure as Supreme Magus, the SRIA began to circulate a story that Kenneth MacKenzie had actually communicated his Rosicrucian lineage to Little for the SRIA. MacKenzie was fraudulently listed as a Past Magus of the SRIA on a leaflet stating the aims of the society in 1892. Under Wescott's leadership, the SRIA went even further to claim Kenneth MacKenzie’s Rosicrucian lineage for the SRIA by posthumously framing MacKenzie as a founder of the society. The original Society register was eventually also fraudulently altered. Where MacKenzie's name originally stood as number 114, it was altered to number 0.

Wescott knew full well that Kenneth MacKenzie had been given teaching materials and a Rosicrucian lineage with which to form a branch of a Continental Rosicrucian order in England. This order was not the SRIA, however, but rather the Golden Dawn. Wescott obscured these facts behind the story of Fraulein Sprengel. There can be no other logical conclusion except that William Wynn Wescott deliberately attempted to steal the Golden Dawn's Rosicrucian lineage through Kenneth MacKenzie for the SRIA, which was Wescott's first love. This act of dishonesty by W. Wynn Wescott ultimately caused great harm to both organizations and permanently damaged his own reputation due to MacGregor Mathers' later allegations of Wescotts' having forged the Sprengel letters.

Let us, in light of these facts, reexamine the origins of the Golden Dawn and the Cipher Manuscripts. As a young man, Kenneth MacKenzie was living in Austria with his family, where in approximately 1850 he was initiated as a Rosicrucian by Hungarian Count Aponyi. MacKenzie was given certain teaching materials and lineages and charged with creating a branch of the order in England. At the time of MacKenzie's initiation, both the German Gold und Rosenkruetz Order and the Order of the Asiatic Brethren were active in Austria. Moreover one of the common names for the Asiatic Brethren were the Fratres Lucis.

Upon his return to England, Kenneth MacKenzie actually did found an esoteric society, also named the Fratres Lucis or Brethren of the Cross of Light. MacKenzie’s own temple was number one, followed by Hermanoubis temple number two in Bristol under Major F.G. Irwin. Thus Isis-Urania became temple number three when it was founded by Wescott, Woodman, and Mathers in 1888 and the name of the order was changed to the Golden Dawn.

Kenneth MacKenzie was an expert cryptographer. It is almost certain that it was MacKenzie who committed the Cipher Manuscripts to Trithemius’ cipher to protect their content from prying eyes. Such documents were routinely coded in this manner by contemporary Rosicrucians. It is noteworthy, however, that several of the folio’s decrypt not into English, but rather into French and Latin. This is an important indication of a Continental European origin of the esoteric material contained in the Cipher Manuscripts.

Regarding Kenneth MacKenzie’s mysterious Rosicrucian teachers in Continental Europe, 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.”

These Hermetic and Rosicrucian alchemical Adepts bear great resemblance to the Secret Chiefs as described by S.L. MacGregor Mathers with whom Mathers met in Paris beginning in 1891, as does MacKenzie’s further description of these elusive Hermetic and Rosicrucian alchemists:

“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.”

And finally, the way that MacKenzie describes the penchant for secrecy of these Secret Chiefs is most interesting:

"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.”

The Cipher Manuscript Folios

Folio 1

Folio 2

Folio 3

Folio 4

Folio 5

Folio 6

Folio 7

Folio 8

Folio 9

Folio 10

Folio 11

Folio 12

Folio 13

Folio 14

Folio 15

Folio 16

Folio 17

Folio 18

Folio 19

Folio 20

Folio 21

Folio 22

Folio 23

Folio 24

Folio 25

Folio 26

Folio 27

Folio 28

Folio 29

Folio 30

Folio 31

Folio 32

Folio 33

Folio 34

Folio 35

Folio 36

Folio 37

Folio 38

Folio 39

Folio 40

Folio 41

Folio 42

Folio 43

Folio 44

Folio 45

Folio 46

Folio 47

Folio 48

Folio 49

Folio 50

Folio 51

Folio 52

Folio 53

Folio 54

Folio 55

Folio 56