While most initiatory orders work in a system of groups and lodges, where members gather in a temple and work together, in the A∴A∴ the work is individual. You work alone with the eventual guidance of your instructor, who acts as a counselor, not as a teacher1.
The A∴A∴ member studies under the guidance of an instructor, the only person he contacts in the Order2. That person is responsible for validating the student’s progress and for transmitting instructions and keys that come from oral tradition. When the student also becomes qualified to instruct, he will have contact with the people he will guide in the Order.
The A∴A∴ instructor must be at least one grade ahead of the student, following one of the mottoes of the Order: “In A∴A∴ blind does not lead the blind”. Thus, a member of the Probationer Grade 0○=0□ must be instructed by someone who is at least at the Neophyte Grade 1○=10□; a Neophyte 1○=10□ must be instructed by someone who is at least a Zelator 2○=9□; and so on.
After reaching the Grade of Adeptus Minor 5○=6□, the member should attain the experience of the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel, i.e. the contact with his True Teacher. From there, “His Angel shall lead him anon to the summit of the Order of the R. C. and make him ready to face the unspeakable terror of the Abyss which lies between Manhood and Godhead”3, that is, to pass through the grades of the Second Order and reach the 8○=3□.
What are Lineages?
That word can be used to define two related concepts.
First, lineage can be the instructor-student chain of succession, the chain passing from the student, through his instructor, to the instructor of his instructor and so on until one of the founders of the Order.
For example, Euclydes Lacerda de Almeida was received in the Order by Marcelo Ramos Motta, who was received by Karl Johannes Germer, who in turn was received by Edward Alexander Crowley, co-founder of A∴A∴. Then one can say that the lineage of Euclydes is via Motta > Germer > Crowley4. Every Neophyte potentially is a new lineage of A∴A∴.
We also use the term lineage to denote claimant groups, the set of people who claim to be legitimate members of the A∴A∴ and who operate below a given senior member of the Order, whose instructor has already passed away. For example, Frater אדני is instructed by Frater 939, who was instructed by Motta, and so on. By becoming a student of אדני, it is said that you are part of the lineage of Frater 9395.
Lineages vs. a Central Command
When It was founded, A∴A∴ held three administrative offices:
- Cancellārius: the secretary, responsible for documents and communications. Position originally occupied by Captain J.F.C. Fuller (Frater P.A.)
- Imperator: responsible for ruling the Order. Position originally occupied by Aleister Crowley (Frater O.S.V.)
- Praemonstrātor: responsible for instructions. Position originally occupied by George Cecil Jones (Frater D.D.S.)
Around 1911, Frater P.A. and Frater D.D.S. withdrew from A∴A∴, which fell under the sole responsibility of Aleister Crowley (Frater O.S.V). Over the following years, different people held these positions, but when Crowley passed away in 1947, he left all his possessions, as well as the government of the A∴A∴ and the OTO, into the hands of Karl Johannes Germer.
Although with due authority, Karl Germer never imposed himself as the leader of all the remaining members of the A∴A∴. Instead, each of the surviving senior members continued to take care of their own students.
With Germer’s death, the situation became more complex because he did not leave a direct successor to command the A∴A∴. Some people argue that Motta would be his successor (“the follower”), but even if we assume that he was the heir of the A∴A∴ command, he didn’t leave heirs, and we would have almost the same situation as before.
To this day, no group has been recognized by all active lineages as being the one governing triad of A∴A∴ as a whole — although one of these groups tries to rule them all. What happens in practice is that each lineage has its own governing triad or a person who centers those functions — usually the senior member.
With so many conflicting discussions about authenticity, it is difficult to check whether a group has an authentic A∴A∴ line of succession or not. These are a few criteria one could use to determine if a lineage is authentic:
- Start from Aleister Crowley. The earliest link of this chain of succession must be this co-founder of the Order, the only one who remained active until his death.
- Verified grades. Each member of the chain must have his grades recognized by his own Instructor, with no self-recognition or self-advancement.
- The senior living member must be at least a 5○=6□. From this point, a member can work with his own Holy Guardian Angel, but before that, there must be someone able to lead him up to Tiphereth and then confirm his Attainment.
- There should be no “Grade jumping”. All predecessors must have worked through each intermediate grade in turn: 0○=0□, then 1○=10□, then 2○=9□, then 3○=8□, then 4○=7□, then D.L. and then 5○=6□.
Although some claims of succession seem more valid than others, there is no lineage that meets all these requirements meticulously.
A∴A∴ is not a worldly order such as the Freemasonry, OTO, and Golden Dawn, thus charters and official recognition do not matter as much as results. It is important for aspirants to deeply research the A∴A∴ lineage or claimant group they wish to join.
The model is similar to guru-śiṣya tradition, however, the “guru” is neither rewarded nor exalted, it serves only as a facilitator. His “guru” is the “śiṣya” of another guru, who in turn is the śiṣya of a third guru, and so on, until reaching the founder of the Order, the origin of the current. ↩
“[…] the A∴A∴ concerns the individual, his development, his initiation, 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.” (Magick Without Tears). This only in theory, because many A∴A∴ members also are members of other Thelemic orders and groups, so eventually they end up identifying themselves. However they should never work together in their A∴A∴ assignments. ↩
One Star in Sight, by Aleister Crowley. ↩
In the guru-śiṣya tradition this is called Paramparā. ↩
In the guru-śiṣya tradition this is called Sampradāya. ↩