Mathers, S(amuel) L(iddell) MacGregor
(1854–1918)
Leading British occultist who was one of the founders of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Born in Hackney, London,
January 8, 1854, he lived with his mother at Bournemouth
after the early death of his father. As a boy he was intensely interested
in symbolism and mysticism. He claimed a romantic
descent from Ian MacGregor of Glenstrae, an ardent Jacobite
who was given the title of Comte de Glenstrae by Louis XIV.
Mathers became a Freemason on October 4, 1877, and a
Master Mason on January 30, 1878, soon after his 24th birthday.
His mystical interests led him to become a member of the
Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (Rosicrucian Society of England),
where he was an associate of William Wynn Westcott,
William Robert Woodman, and Kenneth Mackenzie. Together
with Westcott and Woodman, Mathers founded the Golden
Dawn in 1888. Meanwhile he lived in poverty after the death
of his mother in 1885 and spent much time researching occultism
at the British Museum Library, London.
Anna Kingsford introduced him to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Blavatsky invited him to collaborate in the building of
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Mathers, S(amuel) L(iddell) MacGregor
999
the Theosophical Society, but he declined. In 1890 he married
Moina Bergson, sister of the French philosopher Henri Bergson.
Soon afterward he moved to Paris with his wife.
Mathers and his wife received a small allowance from Annie
Horniman (daughter of the founder of the Horniman Museum,
London, and a member of the Golden Dawn), so that he might
continue his studies on behalf of the order. However, disputes
developed between them on financial issues, and in December
1896 Mathers peremptorily expelled Horniman from the organization.
Mathers was also deceived by the charlatans Theodore and
Laura Horos, who acquired Golden Dawn rituals from him for
their own misuse. Other disagreements developed in the order,
and during a dispute between Mathers and British officials, a
youthful Aleister Crowley sided with Mathers and attempted
to take over the London premises and documents. The poet W.
B. Yeats, a noted member, played a prominent part in rejecting
Crowley. Eventually Mathers himself was expelled from the
Golden Dawn.
Mathers died November 20, 1918. The MacGregor Mathers
Society was founded in Britain as a dining club for men only,
membership by invitation. The society can be contacted at
BM#Spirotos (M.M.S.), London W.C.1, England. Mathers’s
most lasting contributions to the magical revival of the twentieth
century were his many translations of key magical texts,
which he rescued from the obscurity into which they had fallen.
Sources
Colquhoun, Ithell. The Sword of Wisdom MacGregor Mathers
and The Golden Dawn. New York G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1975.
Mathers, S. L. MacGregor. Astral Projection, Ritual Magic, and
Alchemy. Rochester, Vt. Destiny Books, 1987.
———. The Kabbalah Unveiled. 1907. Reprint, London
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1926.
———. The Key of Solomon the King. 1889. Reprinted as The
Greater Key of Solomon. Chicago De Laurence, 1914.
Mathers, S. L. MacGregor, trans. The Book of the Sacred Magic
of Abra-Melin the Mage. 1898. Reprint, Chicago De Laurence,
1932. Reprint, New York Causeway Books, 1974.

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