The A∴A∴, or "Great White Brotherhood," is an organized fraternity of men and women dedicated to the spiritual advancement of humanity. The current structure of the organization was designed by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones in 1906 from the ashes of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The A∴A∴ revealed Liber AL vel Legis to the world through the Prophet Aleister Crowley, as well as the other Holy Books of Thelema.
In An Account of A∴A∴, Aleister Crowley writes,
- This community possesses a School, in which all who thirst for knowledge are instructed by the Spirit of Wisdom itself; and all the mysteries of nature are preserved in this school for the children of light. Perfect knowledge of nature and of humanity is taught in this school. It is from her that all truths penetrate into the world; she is the school of all who search for wisdom, and it is in this community alone that truth and the explantation of all mystery are to be found.
In "The System of the O.T.O", which originally appeared in Magick Without Tears, Crowley says,
- The A∴A∴ concerns the individual, his development, his intitiation, his passage from "Student" to "Ipsissimus"; he has no contact of any kind with any other person except the Neophyte who introduces him, and any Student or Students whom he may, after becoming a Neophyte, introduce.
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A∴A∴ is unique in that members officially only know their superior and any inferiors they themselves are responsible for. 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 social complications and ego problems that led to 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 initiates from teacher to student, and devoting all of ones attainments to those that follow.
In general, a member of A∴A∴ will do the following:
- Discover for himself his own true will, and then do it, and do nothing else
- Accept the Book of the Law as the sole Rule of Life
- Acknowledge that "The word of the Law is Θελημα" and that "Love is the law, love under will."
- Acknowledge the authority of the offices of the Beast 666 and the Scarlet Woman
- Accept Ra-Hoor-Khuit as the Lord of the Aeon, and work to establish His reign upon Earth
- Work to attain the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel
- After the K&C of the HGA, to enter into the Abyss, and to emerge again therefrom
The A∴A∴ consists of eleven grades devided into a preparatory stage, and three initiatory "Orders":
Without all Orders
- Student: His 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 sits 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.
- 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 my 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 Libers E, and 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)
- Neophyte (1°=10#): The title of the grade is derived from the Greek neophutos, meaning newly planted. The Neophyte grade is the first grade in which true initiation takes place, and the candidate 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 a minimum of eight months, through a second unpublished ritual, titled The Passing through the Duat.
- Zelator (2°=9#): His 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.
- Practicus (3°=8#): 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.
- Philosophus (4°=7#): 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 the primarily directed toward transcending the 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.
- Dominus Liminis—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" is another reflection of this aspiration: it means "the threshold of the Lord", a reference to the fact that in the next grade, that aspiration will be turned to the attainment of Communion with the Holy Guardian Angel.
The Order of the R∴C∴ (Rose-Cross)
- Adeptus Minor (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.
- Adeptus Major (6°=5#): His work 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.
- Adeptus Exemptus (7°=4#): The 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.
- (Babe of the Abyss)—the link: The Grade of 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.
- Magister Templi, or Master of the Temple (8°=3#): His principal business 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.
- Magus (9°=2#): Attains to 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.
- Ipsissimus (10°=1#): Beyond the comprehension of the lower degrees. An Ipsissimus is free from limitations and necessity and lives in perfect balance with Nature. Essentially, the highest mode of attainment.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1990). "An Account of A∴A∴" The Equinox, I(1). York Beach, ME. : S. Weiser
- Crowley, Aleister. (1997). "One Star in Sight". Magick: Book Four. York Beach, ME. : S. Weiser
- Crowley, Aleister. (1982). "The System of O.T.O." Magick Without Tears. Phoenix, AZ : Falcon Press
- Eshelman, James. (1993). The Mystical and Magical System of the A∴A∴. Los Angeles: College of Thelema
- Seckler, Phyllis. (eds. Shoemaker, Peters, and Johnson). (2010). The Thoth Tarot, Astrology, & Other Selected Writings. York Beach, ME: Teitan Press
- Seckler, Phyllis. (eds. Shoemaker, Peters, and Johnson). (2012). The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema. Selected Writings Volume II. York Beach, ME: Teitan Press
- Shoemaker, David. (2013). Living Thelema. Sacramento, CA: Anima Solis Books
- Outer College Curriculum Resources (http://www.outercol.org/)
- Liber LXI vel Causae A∴A∴ (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib61.html)
- Liber XXXIII, An Account of A∴A∴ (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib33.html)
- A Syllabus of the Official Instructions of A∴A∴ (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib207.html)
- One Star in Sight (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/aba/app2.html)
- O.T.O. USGL Statement on A∴A∴ (http://oto-usa.org/thelema/aa/)