Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
Samuel Liddell Mathers
8 or 11 January 1854
|Died||5 or 20 November 1918 (aged 64)|
|Residence||Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk|
|Alma mater||Bedford School|
|Known for||Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn|
|Parent(s)||William M. Mathers|
|Part of a series on|
"Three Parts of the Wisdom of the Whole Universe"
Samuel Liddell (or Liddel) MacGregor Mathers (8 or 11 January 1854 – 5 or 20 November 1918), born Samuel Liddell Mathers, was a British occultist. He is primarily known as one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a ceremonial magic order of which offshoots still exist today.
Mathers was born on 8 or 11 January 1854 in Hackney, London, England. His father, William M. Mathers, died while he was still a boy. His mother, whose maiden name was Collins, died in 1885. He attended Bedford School, subsequently working in Bournemouth, Dorset, as a clerk, before moving to London following the death of his mother.
Mathers added the "MacGregor" surname as a claim to Highland Scottish heritage, although there is little evidence of such in his family background. He was a practising vegetarian, or (according to some accounts) vegan, an outspoken anti-vivisectionist, and a non-smoker. It is known that his main interests were magic and the theory of war, his first book being a translation of a French military manual. He became more and more of an eccentric towards his later years, as was noted by W. B. Yeats.
Mathers was introduced to Freemasonry by a neighbour, alchemist Frederick Holland, and was initiated into Hengist Lodge No.195 on 4 October 1877. He was raised as a Master Mason on 30 January 1878. In 1882 he was admitted to the Metropolitan College of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia as well as a number of fringe Masonic degrees. Working hard both for and in the SRIA he was awarded an honorary 8th Degree in 1886, and in the same year he lectured on the Kabbalah to the Theosophical Society. He became Celebrant of Metropolitan College in 1891 and was appointed as Junior Substitute Magus of the SRIA in 1892, in which capacity he served until 1900. He left the order in 1903, having failed to repay money which he had borrowed.
Upon the death of William Robert Woodman in 1891, Mathers assumed leadership of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He moved with his wife to Paris on 21 May 1892. After his expulsion from the Golden Dawn in April 1900, Mathers formed a group in Paris in 1903 called Alpha et Omega (its headquarters, the Ahathoor Temple). Mathers choosing the title "Archon Basileus".
Mathers was a polyglot; among the languages he had studied were English, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Gaelic and Coptic, though he had a greater command of some languages than of others. His translations of such books as The Book of Abramelin (14thC.), Christian Knorr von Rosenroth's The Kabbalah Unveiled (1684), Key of Solomon (anonymous 14thC.), The Lesser Key of Solomon (anonymous 17thC.), and the Grimoire of Armadel (17thC.), while probably justly criticised with respect to quality, were responsible for making what had been obscure and inaccessible material widely available to the non-academic English speaking world. They have had considerable influence on the development of occult and esoteric thought since their publication, as has his consolidation of the Enochian magical system of John Dee and Edward Kelley.
In addition to many supporters, he had many enemies and critics. One of his most notable enemies was one-time friend and pupil Aleister Crowley, who portrayed Mathers as a villain named SRMD in his 1917 novel Moonchild. According to Crowley's memoirs, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Mathers was in the habit of ostensibly playing chess matches against various pagan gods. Mathers would set up the chessboard and seat himself behind the white pieces, with an empty chair opposite him. After making a move for himself, Mathers would then shade his eyes and peer towards the empty chair, waiting for his opponent to signal a move. Mathers would then move a black piece accordingly, then make his next move as white, and so forth. Crowley did not record who won.
Earlier, Crowley wrote in his Confessions that: "As far as I was concerned, Mathers was my only link with the Secret Chiefs to whom I was pledged. I wrote to him offering to place myself and my fortune unreservedly at his disposal; if that meant giving up the Abra-Melin Operation for the present, all right."
Mathers died on 5 or 20 November 1918 in Paris. The manner of his death is unknown; his death certificate lists no cause of death. Violet Firth claimed his death was the result of the Spanish influenza of 1918. While this seems likely, few facts are known about Mathers's private life and thus verification of such claims is difficult.
- The Book of Abramelin
- Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
- List of occultists
- Mathers table
- William Robert Woodman
- Nevill Drury, The Dictionary of the Esoteric, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2004, p. 208.
- S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Practical Instruction in Infantry Campaigning Exercise, Translated from the French ( London: City of London Publishing Co., 1884); cited in Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology and Rituals of an Occult Order, page 111 (second revised edition, Crucible, 1987). ISBN 978-1852740252
- William Butler Yeats, The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III: Autobiographies, pages 452–453 (edited by William O'Donnell and Douglas N. Archibald, New York: Scribner, 1999 edition). ISBN 0-684-80728-9
- History of the SRIA, T M Greenshill, MBE, published 2003
- "Samuel Liddel MacGregor-Mathers", accessed 17 February 2007.
- John Michael Greer, The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Hidden History, page 28 (HarperElement, 2006). ISBN 978-0-00-722068-7
- Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. p. 194.
- Biography from Kheper.net
- Biography from the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn
- Biography from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Inc.
- The Truth about S.L. MacGregor Mathers
Works at the Internet Sacred Text Archive
- The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
- The Kabbalah Unveiled
- The Key of Solomon The King
- The Lesser Key of Solomon
- The Tarot