Woodman, William Robert

William Robert Woodman (1828–1891) was an English occultist and a founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. William Robert Woodman is probably the least known among the early Golden Dawn principals, perhaps because he died before the order reached its zenith of power. Little has been written about him, despite the fact that he was active in Rosicrucianism and authored numerous articles on Rosicrucian studies.

Woodman was born in England in 1828. He studied medicine in London and became a physician in 1851, practicing in Victoria Villas, Stoke Newington, outside of London. His occult interests attracted him to Freemasonry, and he became a Master Mason. He joined the Rosicrucian Society of England (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia) when it was formed in 1866. The society was open only to Master Masons. In 1867 Woodman became secretary, and in 1878 he became Supreme Magus. He coedited a Rosicrucian magazine with R. W. Little, his predecessor as Supreme Magus.

In the Rosicrucian Society, Woodman met fellow members William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, with whom he shared interests in ceremonial Magic, Alchemy, and the Kabbalah. He became a mentor to the much younger Westcott.

When Westcott conceived the idea for the formation of the Golden Dawn in 1897, he enlisted the help of Woodman and Mathers. In particular, Woodman brought a desired air of respectable Victorian establishment to the new group. By then, Woodman was retired from his medical practice. With Mathers and Westcott, he was one of the three founding Chiefs of the Esoteric Order. His Magical Motto was Magna Est Veritas Et Praelavebit, “Great is the Truth and it shall prevail.”

Woodman stayed in the background of the emerging Golden Dawn due to his poor health and distance from London. He died in 1891 before the Second Order of the Golden Dawn was established and before the eruption of scandal and internal politics that ultimately led to the organization’s downfall.


  • “Dr. W. Robert Woodman.” Available online. URL: https:// www.golden-dawn.org/biowoodman.html. Downloaded June 29, 2005.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.