At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, of a secret "initiatory" society of Rosicrucian inspiration formed and was called the Golden Dawn. Its members included some of the most brilliant minds in the country.
The Golden Dawn, founded in 1887, was an offshoot of the English Rosicrucian Society created twenty years earlier by Robert Wentworth Little, and consisted largely of leading Freemasons. The latter society had about 144 members, including Bulwer Lytton, author of The Last Days of Pompeii.
The Golden Dawn, with a smaller membership, was formed for the practice of ceremonial magic and the acquisition of initiatory knowledge and powers. Its leaders were Woodman, Mathers and Wynn Westcott (the "occultist" mentioned by Toulet in his letter of 1900).
It was in contact with similar German societies, some of whose members were later associated with Rudolf Steiner's famous anthroposophical movement and other influential sects during the pre-Nazi period. Later on it came under the leadership of Aleister Crowley, an altogether extraordinary man who was certainly one of the greatest exponents of the neo-paganism whose development in Germany we have noted.
S.L. Mathers, after the death of Woodman and the resignation of Westcott, was the Grand Master of the Golden Dawn, which he directed for some time from Paris, where he had just married Henri Bergson's daughter.