The A∴A∴ (Latin: Arcanum Arcanorum, "secret of secrets," alternately, Latin: Argenteum Astrum or Greek: Αστρον Αργον, "Astron Argon", both literally; "Silver star") is a magical order created by Aleister Crowley in 1907 after leaving the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It is a Thelemic magical fraternity, the goals of which are the pursuit of light and knowledge. Heavily influenced by Aleister Crowley, the holy book of the order is Liber AL vel Legis (in English, The Book of the Law). Its motto is: "The method of science, the aim of religion." While the A∴A∴ was not part of Ordo Templi Orientis, the O.T.O. did consider the A∴A∴ to be a close ally.
Various lineages of the A∴A∴ survive today that can be traced back to the founders Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones. One such lineage is that founded by actress Jane Wolfe (known as Soror Estai). Other lineages run through pupils of Marcelo Ramos Motta, a student of Karl Germer, who studied under Aleister Crowley. The secrecy, however, makes it difficult to say that any particular lineage is the true descendant of the original society.
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∴ must perform several major tasks including
The discovery and living out of one's own true will
The acceptance of the Book of the Law as the sole guide in life
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 Beast 666 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 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.
(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
(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.
(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.
(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.
See also: Klesha and Sama
(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 old 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 RR & AC.
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.
(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.
(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.
See also: Bodhisattva
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.
(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.
(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.