on 1910 or around 3 copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on 1897.
The three volumes were luxurious books printed in small quantities, so this — and the fact that the A∴A∴ had an office and later a telephone number — maybe explains a bit of the high price. Not everybody would be able to afford them, but eventually most of them were publicly printed as part of The Equinox, at a better price.
Today people don’t have to worry about it, because we can find all these instructions easily on the Internet or in affordable books. As far as I know, no A∴A∴ claimant group is demanding those fees.
Some people understand, based on (Liber Causæ), that a given person can only request admission to the Order once in their lifetime:
“Listen, we pray you, with attention: for once only does the Great Order knock at any one door. Whosoever knows any member of that Order as such, can never know another, until he too has attained to mastery. Here, therefore, we pause, that you may thoroughly search yourself, and consider if you are yet fitted to take an irrevocable step. For the reading of that which follows is Recorded.” (Liber Causæ)
These notes found in the second edition of Liber LXI corroborate with the idea:
“This copy is lent to the correspondent on the distinct understanding that he will return it within Two hours of its receipt, with a definite answer Yes or No as to wether he will proceed to take the obligation of a Probationer.” (Liber Causæ, 1910 edition)
A special authorization issued by the Cancellarius (which will be discussed later) also confirms the restriction, and makes it clear that the reading of Liber LXI indeed is recorded:
“The name of any Aspirant to whom the Lections have been read must in any case be forwarded […] as no man is permitted to apply a second time. The Aspirant must decide definitely at the time of reading whether or no he will proceed.”
The Probationer is received in person by a Neophyte, i.e., someone at least from the Grade immediately above his, who would be acting on behalf of his Zelator (i.e., the supervisor of his supervisor), following the chain of instructor-student refering back to the founding members:
“It is simple to write to the Chancellor of the A∴A∴ […]; a neophyte of the Order will be detailed to meet the inquirer. He will read to him the History of the Order and explain the task of the Probationer.” (The Equinox I(2), Sep. 1909)
The physical presence of someone from the A∴A∴ supervising the admission of the Probationer is very important, but as you may guess, in the beginning there was more people applying to join than available supervisors to receive them.
George Cecil Jones never admitted anyone in the A∴A∴, although he previously acted as Crowley’s mentor in the Golden Dawn. So, in 1909, there was only one person in the Neophyte grade (or above) to admit new Probationers: Crowley himself. In 1910, 3 people made it to Neophyte. In 1911, there was Crowley + 4 more active members able to admit new members, and 41 enlisted Probationers.
Since receiving people in person was something very important, and sometimes a Neophyte wouldn’t be close enough or even available to admit new members, the A∴A∴ issued a special dispensation allowing Probationers to receive other Probationers:
“The Probationer … is hereby authorized to act as a Neophyte for the purpose of enrolling other Probationers: i.e. to explain the tenets of Skeptical Theurgy or Scientific Illuminism; to read the Preliminary and History Lections; and to receive the Aspirant. […] This permission will be valid for one year, and may then be renewed at my discretion. But it should be remember that only exceptional circumstances justify the Probationer in failing to take up his Initiation at the end of his year.”
(This exception of allowing Probationers to enroll other Probationers was only kept when there was no enough people in the Neophyte Grade and above. It does not seem to be the case nowadays.)
Today, there are A∴A∴ claimant groups which do not require the candidates to be physically present in front of the Neophyte to be admitted as Probationers, while others keep the tradition of the in-person reception. Personally, I think it is pretty cool the idea that you are in front of your superior in the same way as all of your predecessors were in front of theirs – even if your claimant group does not require you to be “in presence of” your superior for the admission and/or advancements, you should consider traveling and meeting yours.
To each grade of the A∴A∴ is attributed a specific design of a “magical robe”, the counterpart of the Golden Dawn sashes and the Freemasonry aprons.
“The robe of a Probationer should be obtained from Mr. W. Northam, 9, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, who charges Five Pounds for it.” (Liber Causæ, 1910 edition)
How much was Five Pounds? Applying the same formulas as before, it would be equivalent to £5 in modern currency, which, updated with inflactions rates, would be equivalent to £761.45 (or USD 952.12) in 2023. Fortunately, nowadays you can find photos and diagrams[2:1] so you can hire the local “robemaker” to make one for you or buy one from Aly Moon Magick Crafts at a much lower cost.
The Probationer robe is a central part of the admission process. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of the Neophyte actually delivering the robe in the hands of the Probationer:
“The admission is not valid unless the Neophyte hand the robe to the Probationer with his own hands; or in the case of correspondence through the post — a method which is not to be employed without grave reason — write formally ‘I bestow the robe upon you’.” (Liber Causæ, 1910 edition)
However, we find two contradictions here:
Even if your A∴A∴ claimant group does not require the robe, you should consider obtaining one. As Crowley says in a letter to a prospective A∴A∴ candidate:
“The only other thing is that you keep the Robe for doing your meditation. It is found useful, for a great many people, to make a complete distinction betwen the ordinary life and the work. You put on the robe when going to meditate very much as you dress for dinner.” (Crowley to Mrs. Grahan, 1913)
The instruction for the advancement to the next Grade (Neophyte) is clear regarding the requirement of the magical robe: “Let [the Probatiober] obtain the robe of a Neophyte, and entrust the same to the care of his Neophyte”. It is not optional.
Three years after publicly announcing the A∴A∴, Crowley decided to change the Probationer admission procedure by adding a new preliminary step called Student of the Mysteries:
“Owing to the unnecessary strain thrown upon Neophytes by unprepared persons totally ignorant of the groundwork taking the Oath of a Probationer, the Imperator of A∴A∴, under the seal and by the authority of V.V.V.V.V., ordains that every person wishing to become a Probationer of A∴A∴ must first pass three months as a Student of the Mysteries.
He must possess the following books: — […]
An examination in these books will be made. The Student is expected to show a thorough acquaintance with them, but not necessarily to understand them in any deeper sense. On passing the examination he may be admitted to the grade of Probationer.” (The Equinox Vol I. Nº. 7, mar. 1912)
The list of books changed over time, as Frater Orpheus perfectly explains in his article.
Here is what Crowley had to say about this step to a prospective candidate:
“After 3 months means any time convenient when that period has elapsed. When you think you are ready to be examined, you apply. […] With regard to personal instruction, I am always willing to see pupils by appointment and explain anything which may remain obscure. It is, however, desirable that pupils should study these books as in the course of teaching I have to refer to many statements in those books, and a study of them on your part saves my time.” (Crowley to Nott, 1913)
Frater Orpheus also wrote an excellent article on the Student examination, so there’s not much left to say about it but leave you with a quote of a letter Crowley sent to Windram:
“I am sending you three sets of probationer papers. As a Neophyte, you have full authority to admit anyone you like. Please remember that the Student qualification should not be neglected, but there is no intention of worrying people about it. It’s only object is to prevent persons entirely ignorant of the subjects bothering other people with silly questions which they ought to know. As long as the man knows his way about the Equinox it is quite alright to pass him.” (Crowley to Windram, 1913)
Today, there are A∴A∴ claimant groups which slightly changed some of these procedures. Here are a few examples without names:
The Probationer reception procedures have undoubtedly evolved over time, even when Crowley was alive. There are different viewpoints among individuals regarding these procedures. Some prefer to adhere strictly to the original methods from the early years, valuing tradition above all else. Others take a progressive approach, seeking to enhance and improve the A∴A∴ system as they view it. A third group maintains the original form while adding to it, refusing to remove any elements. What is your stance on this matter?
Read more abou the chain of supervisors and students in “What is an A∴A∴ lineage?”. ↩︎
To learn more about the magical robes of the Order, read “The A∴A∴ Robe Design”. ↩︎ ↩︎
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