The A∴A∴ is a magical order that was created in 1907 by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones after they left the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The acronym, A∴A∴, has been assigned many meanings (see table below). The order is a Thelemic magical fraternity, the goals of which are the pursuit of light and knowledge. Its motto is: "The method of science, the aim of religion." The holy book of the order is Liber AL vel Legis (in English, The Book of the Law). While the A ∴A∴ is not part of Ordo Templi Orientis, O.T.O. does consider the A∴A∴ to be a close ally.
After Crowley's death his student Karl Germer took over running the Order, but since Germer's death the situation has been less clear. Various so-called "lineages" of the A∴A∴ survive today that claim to be descended from Crowley. One such lineage cites actress Jane Wolfe (known as Soror Estai) as the link. Other lineages run through pupils of Marcelo Ramos Motta, a student of Germer. Another lineage links itself to Crowley through Israel Regardie, claiming that he joined the A∴A∴ when he became Crowley’s secretary in 1928, but distanced himself from the organization when the two men parted company four years later in 1932. One more lineage runs through Grady McMurtry. However presently there exists no single undisputed central authority of the A∴A∴ such as existed under Crowley and Germer; nor has any surviving mechanism for the transference of such temporal authority been preserved down to the present day.
|Latin||Argentium Astrum||silver star|
|Greek||Άστρον Αργυρόν (transliteration: Astron Argiron)||silver star|
|Latin||Arcanum Arcanorum||secret of secrets|
|Aramaic||אריך אנפין, (transliteration: Arikh Anpin)||vast countenance (meaning Kether)|
|English||Angel and Abyss||Angel and Abyss|
A∴A∴ is unique in that members officially only know those directly above and below in the chain of instruction. There are no regular group rituals (measures are taken to hide the identity of the Officers during the few Temple initiation rituals), and members are expected to work alone, consulting as needed with their superior in the Order. In this way the founders of the system hoped to avoid the many political problems that allegedly brought about the downfall of the predecessor organization, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The A∴A∴ is a spiritual organization focused on enlightenment of the individual, with a strong emphasis on maintaining the chain of initiation from teacher to student, and devoting all of one's attainments to those individuals who follow.
All members of the A∴A∴ at some point, are expected to perform several major tasks including
- The discovery and living out of one's own true will
- The recognition that "The word of the Law is Θελημα"and that "Love is the law, love under will."
- The acknowledgement of the authority of the offices of The Great Beast and the Scarlet Woman
- The acceptance of Ra-Hoor-Khuit as the Lord of the Aeon, and work to establish his reign upon Earth
- The attainment of a mystical state known as "the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel"
- The experience of the Abyss
The A∴A∴ consists of eleven grades, divided into a preparatory stage and three initiatory Orders, two of which come from the Golden Dawn with few changes. As a result, the name A∴A∴ can also refer specifically to the Third Order. In theory members of the Third Order can generate their own variations of the First and Second Order teachings as reflections of their own Understanding.
Without all Orders
A student's business is to acquire a general intellectual knowledge of all systems of attainment, as declared in the prescribed books. At the end of a fixed period, the Student takes an open-book examination to test his reading, after which he passes through a small ritual involving the reading of the History Lection (Liber LXI), and passes to the grade of Probationer.
(0°=0□): This grade exists primarily for the candidate to prove himself capable of executing the Great Work, and to prepare him for his initiation into the A∴A∴ proper. His principal business is to begin such practices as he may prefer, and to write a careful record of the same for one year. In this, he is charged with the tasks of attaining a "scientific knowledge of the nature and powers of his own being". Crowley elsewhere mentions that the Probationer must demonstrate a reasonable level of proficiency in the core practices of the Order (as laid out in Liber E and Liber O). This is primarily to ensure that when advancement comes, the newly created Neophyte will have the necessary experience to guide his own Probationers in their work. Initiation into the following grade of Neophyte is conferred after at least one year, through an unpublished ritual titled Liber Throa.
The Order of the G∴D∴ (Golden Dawn)
(1°=10□): The title of this grade is derived from the Greek neophytos, meaning newly planted. The Neophyte grade is the first grade in which true initiation takes place, and the candidate is set in fertile spiritual soil in which to grow. The Neophyte is charged with the task of attaining "control of the nature and powers of [his] own being." This is prosecuted through the acquisition and use of the technique of Rising on the Planes, i.e. by acquiring perfect control of the Astral Plane. Initiation into the grade of Zelator is conferred after a minimum of eight months, through the ritual, titled The Passing through the Tuat. This grade corresponds to Malkuth on the Tree of Life.
(2°=9□): The Zelator's main work is to achieve complete success in Asana and Pranayama. He also begins to study the formula of the Rosy Cross. The word "Zelator" probably stems from the Greek zealos, zeal. This is in reference to the energy-building asanas and pranayamas that characterise the main work of the grade. The Oath of the grade states the Zelator is to "obtain control of the foundations of [his] own being", a reference to the Sephirah Yesod, to which the grade is attributed. Advancement to Practicus is administrative only, requiring no initiatory ritual as such, and may be conferred at any time. This grade corresponds to Yesod on the Tree of Life.
(3°=8□): A Practicus is expected to complete his intellectual training, and in particular to study the Qabalah. The grade title suggests the "practical" use of the skills acquired through the previous grades. The Practicus is prosecuted to "obtain control of the vacillations of [his] own being", which is to say that he must learn to control his own mind, and become one-pointed in thought, and so in word and action. Advancement to Philosophus, like the advancement to Practicus, is also a purely administrative process, and again may be conferred at any time. This grade corresponds to Hod on the Tree of Life.
(4°=7□): The Philosophus is expected to complete his moral training. He is tested in Devotion to the Order. In particular, this grade stresses the application of adorations to various deities, such as are outlined in Liber Astarte. The oath of the grade characterises this; the Philosophus resolves to "obtain control of the attractions and repulsions of my own being." This effort is primarily directed toward transcending one's likes and dislikes, deliberately defying one's morality, and so on. The aim is to break out of one's predefined idea of self, and reach a perfectly equanimous perspective. Advancement to Dominus Liminis is made at the perfection of this process, and may take place at any time, with no prescribed ritual. This grade corresponds to Netzach on the Tree of Life.
(the link): The grade of Dominus Liminis is a "bridge" that connects the outer Order of the G∴D∴, centred in Yesod, with the Order of the R∴C∴, centred in Tiphareth. The work of the Dominus Liminis extends and refines the work of the previous grades, synthesising it into a coherent whole. The self-control of the Neophyte, the energy of the Zelator, the one-pointedness of the Practicus and the indifference of the Philosophus are fused together, and turned to the work of strengthening and refining the faculty of aspiration. Indeed, the oath of this grade is precisely this, to "obtain control of the aspirations of [one's] own being". The title "Dominus Liminis" means "Lord of the Threshold,"["Dominus" = Latin nominative case = "Lord;" "Liminis" = Latin genitive case = "of the Threshold"] a substitution for Mathers's Golden Dawn Grade "Lord of the Portal," the Portal or Threshold in question being a reference to the fact that the initiate is now passing from the Lesser Mysteries of the Outer Order of the GD to the Greater Mysteries of the Inner Order of the RC & AA.
The Order of the R∴C∴ (Rose-Cross)
(5°=6□): The Grade of Adeptus Minor is the main theme of the instructions of the A∴A∴ It is characterised by the Attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. His work is to manifest the Beauty of the Order to the world, in the way that his superiors enjoin, and his genius dictates. This grade corresponds to Tiferet on the Tree of Life.
(6°=5□): The work of the Adeptus Major is to use Magical Powers to support the authority of the Exempt Adept, his superior. He achieves self-reliance, the proper use of Force, and the authority to govern the lower grades. This grade corresponds to Geburah on the Tree of Life.
(7°=4□): The Exempt Adept must prepare and publish a thesis setting forth his knowledge of the Universe, and his proposals for its welfare and progress. He will thus be known as the leader of a school of thought. He will have attained all but the supreme summits of meditation, and should be already prepared to perceive that the only possible course for him is to devote himself utterly to helping his fellow creatures. This grade corresponds to Chesed on the Tree of Life.
Babe of the Abyss
(the link): The Babe of the Abyss is not a Grade in the proper sense, being rather a passage between the two Orders. It is an annihilation of all the bonds that compose the self or constitute the Cosmos, a resolution of all complexities into their elements, and these thereby cease to manifest, since things are only knowable in respect of their relation to, and reaction on, other things.
The Order of the S. S. (Silver Star)
or Master of the Temple (8°=3□): The principal business of this grade is to obtain a perfect understanding of the Universe. The essential Attainment is the perfect annihilation of that personality which limits and oppresses his true self. The Magister Templi is pre-eminently the Master of Mysticism, that is, his Understanding is entirely free from internal contradiction or external obscurity; his Word is to comprehend the existing Universe in accordance with his own Mind. This grade corresponds to Binah on the Tree of Life, and to the Secret Chiefs in the old Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley also linked it with the experience he called "Shivadarshana" and with the Four Formless States of Buddhism, although he cautions against treating these criteria as sufficient for the grade.
(9°=2□): The Magus seeks to attain Wisdom, declares his law, and is a Master of all Magick in its greatest and highest sense. His will is entirely free from internal diversion or external opposition; His work is to create a new Universe in accordance with his Will. This grade corresponds to Chokmah on the Tree of Life. It also bears some resemblance to Nietzsche's "new philosopher" who creates values, although with more focus on self-transcendence according to Crowley biographer Lawrence Sutin.
(10°=1□): Beyond the comprehension of the lower degrees. An Ipsissimus is free from limitations and necessity and lives in perfect balance with the manifest universe. Essentially, the highest mode of attainment. This grade corresponds to Kether on the Tree of Life. Ipsissimus is quite hard to translate directly from Latin to English, but it is essentially the superlative of "self", translating rather approximately to "His most Selfness," or "self-est." (c.f. generalissimo for the same superlative form in use for a grade from same Latin root.)
Crowley named as a condition of this grade the trance Nirodha-samapatti, which reduces heartbeat and other life functions to the bare minimum.[original research?] Theravada Buddhist monks traditionally attain nirodha-samapatti by producing the aforementioned Formless States one after the other, and perceiving in each what they call the Three Characteristics of all existence: sorrow or tendency towards sorrow, change or unreliability, and insubstantiality or lack of self. Crowley and the A∴A∴ however seek to replace this threefold view with the quest for balance as both a motive for discipline and the means of achieving their end goal. In Liber B vel Magi they urge the Magus seeking further progress to identify the Buddhist Three Characteristics with the opposite states. "Wherein Sorrow is Joy, and Change is Stability, and Selflessness is Self." Crowley's version of nirodha includes "seeing first the truth and then the falsity of the Three Characteristics" according to his published theory -- in other words, he uses the goal of Theravada to aid in the joyous affirmation of the Eternal return.
The Ipsissimus should keep the achievement of this final grade secret even from the rest of the Order and continue with the work of the Magus, while expressing the nature of an Ipsissimus in word and deed.
- Colin Wilson, Nature of the Beast; page 88
- James Wasserman, Practice of the Magial Diary; page 19
- Equinox Vol III No. I Pg. 198
- "In a June 1947 letter to the most loyal of his disciples, Crowley specified that Germer should succeed him in the leadership of the O.T.O." Sutin, Do what thou wilt: A life of Aleister Crowley, 2002 edition, p. 419. Online copy of a 1941 letter gives him authority in the O.T.O. and A∴A∴
- Order's website, web version of article from In the Continuum, Vol. V, No. 10 (Autumnal Equinox, 1996 E.V.)
- Regardie (3rd ed. 1998) p. xv-xvii
- Regardie 777, Sepher Sephiroth entry for the number 2
- James Eshelman, The Mystical and Magical System of the A∴A∴; page 24
- "One Star in Sight"
- "The Psychology of Hashish", XVI-XVIII, in The Equinox I no. 2.
- Magick Without Tears, Chapter XII.
- Sutin, Do what thou wilt, p. 126.
- Liber B vel Magi, published in The Equinox I no. 7.
- The Structure and Dynamics of the Attainment of Cessation in Theravada Meditation, by Winston L. King. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 1977 XLV(2):226.
- "The whole point is to make (attainment) perfect in balance. Then it radiates light in every direction, while the Ipsissimus is utterly indifferent to it." Diary quoted as explanation in Sutin, p. 277.
- "Psychology of Hashish" XIX.
- Magick second revised edition 1998, Appendix II "One star in sight", p. 491. Online version last retrieved July 5, 2010.
- Crowley, Aleister (1990). "An Account of A∴A∴" in The Equinox (Vol. I, No. 1). York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser.
- Crowley, Aleister (1997). "One Star in Sight" in Magick: Book Four. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser.
- Crowley, Aleister (1982). "The System of O.T.O." in Magick Without Tears. Phoenix, AZ: Falcon Press.
- Free Encyclopedia of Thelema (2005). A∴A∴. Retrieved March 27, 2005.
- Sutin, Lawrence (2002). Do what thou wilt: A life of Aleister Crowley. New York, NY: Saint Martin's Griffin.
- Wasserman, James (2004). "Introduction" in Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary. York Beach, ME: Redwheel/Weiser
- Eshelman, James (2000). "The Mystical and Magical System of the A∴A∴." Los Angeles, CA: The College of Thelema.
- Gunther, James Daniel (2009). Initiation in the Aeon of the Child: The Inward Journey Lake Worth, FL: Ibis Press.
- Liber LXI vel Causae A∴A∴
- Liber XXXIII, An Account of A∴A∴
- A Syllabus of the Official Instructions of A∴A∴
- One Star in Sight
- Order allied with Ordo Templi Orientis: Outer College Curriculum Resources
- Aleister Crowley via Jane Wolfe/Karl Germer via Phyllis Seckler:
- Aleister Crowley via Karl Germer via Marcelo Ramos Motta via David Bersson lineage: Castletower Domain
- Israel Regardie via Gerald Suster lineage: Astron Argon. (Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Poland and Norway)
- Runar Karlsen and Paul Joseph Rovelli lineage: A.·.A.·.
- Aleister Crowley via Geoffrey Buckley via Frater Z.'.O.'.N.'.: A.'.A.'.