The Three Orders on the Tree of Life
From the beginning, the overall initiatic process in which the Golden Dawn is but the first step was conceived as being composed ten grades, each one corresponding to a Sephirah on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and of three degrees, each one corresponding to an entire order. Each successive order is veiled from the previous one by the veils of Isis and Nephthys (called Paroketh).
The first degree and order consist of the curriculum and cycle of initiations of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The grades of the first degree begin with the Neophyte initiation and correspond to the Sephiroth of Malkuth, Yesod, Hod, and Netsach. The second degree and order following the H.O.G.D. are those of the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis. The Grades of the second degree begin with the probationary initiation of the Portal of the Vault of the Adepti and correspond to the Sephiroth of Tiphareth, Gevurah, and Chesed. The third degree and order are those of the Third Order, whose true name remains concealed. The grades of the third order correspond to the Sephiroth of Binah, Chokmah, and Kether, and begin with the probationary initiation of the Portal of the Abyss (which corresponds to Non-Sephirah of Daath).
In the first order, the magical forces are awakened, activated, and balanced in the candidate by the initiator in the rituals themselves. These forces are those of the traditional elements; Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit, which are symbolized by a pentagram. Beginning in the second order, however, the individual practice of ceremonial magic greatly enhances this process. The Second Order work primarily activates the forces of the seven traditional planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, which are symbolized by a hexagram. Furthermore, in the second order, the adept learns to independently work with the elements through a series of sub-grades, which further differentiates these forces in the adept's aura. The third order primarily activates the forces of the signs of the zodiac, as well as alchemical Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury, which are symbolized by a triangle. Thus the work of the third order includes alchemy as a psycho-spiritual process as well as ceremonial magic.