The Three Chiefs

On the Three Chiefs: Their Roles & Symbolism 

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

Inherited from the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Outer College of A∴A∴ and the Ordo R.C. are governed by a Triad of Officers: The Cancellārius (1) (Chancellor), Imperātor (2), & the Præmonstrātor (3). Both ideally and symbolically, they are members of the Second Order and provide not only a governing body for the Outer Order G.D. (the Order which is both largest and requires far more need of such governance), but provide in and of themselves a certain function in relation to one another that is instructive regarding members of the Ordo R.C. and their relations one to another in the hierarchy. It is intended to provide a brief account of them here, so that the general membership may acquire some basic understanding of what these Officers are as well as of their function.

On July 29, 1906 e.v. we find in Crowley’s Record (4): “Sunday night. D.D.S. and P. discuss a new Order. D.D.S. wants Authority. I should write and say, ‘Perfect the lightning-conductor and the flash will come.’”, but it wasn’t until November 15 of the following year that he wrote “Saw D.D.S. and got him to consent to O.” In this he meant the initial governing Triad, which in the beginning consisted of Jones as Præmonstrātor and Crowley as Imperātor, yet due to the lack of anyone of sufficient Grade, a Probationer by the name of J.F.C. Fuller was chosen as acting Cancellārius. Almost throughout the existence of the Order since, it has been the case that, because of a lack of sufficient Adepts, at least one of the governing Chiefs not been of sufficient Grade! While the above is of historical interest, it gives me the opportunity to delve into a fact that very few seem to realize: The Offices are intimately related to specific Grades, and symbolically represent such, regardless of the Grade of the person functionally acting in that position. Understanding this, the honorary holding of such a Grade for that purpose then becomes easier to understand. Their relationship was first explained in a Second Order Golden Dawn document called “Z.1 The Enterer of the Threshold” (5), and they are as follows:

Præmonstrātor 7◦=4▫ Chesed to instruct
Imperātor 6◦=5▫ Gevurah to command
Cancellārius 5◦=6▫ Tifareth to record

They are reflected into the Outer Order as Hod reflecting the Water of Chesed, Netzach the Fire of Gevurah, and Yesod the Air of Tifareth. But much more can be discovered about them, and how they relate to the Grades associated with them from “One Star in Sight”:

The Præmonstrātor (7◦=4▫)  and its corresponding Grade “confers authority to govern the two lower Orders of R. C. and G. D.” and “…will…be known as the leader of a school of thought.” Not only is this true for the Office of Præmonstrātor, who in essence maintains both the type and quality of the instruction of the Outer College (and in a sense all Grades below his or her own), but as is well known all Exempt Adepti must set forth their own ideas in published form. While the Order has certain set criteria for advancement, how this is brought about, and making sure this is done in some consistent form, is for him to set about; but he or she has a very important Task, and to that end cannot see to every rule being followed out once he or she has set it down, or in most cases given the order for instruction to continue as is. That is the Task of his or her immediate inferior. 

The Imperātor (6◦=5▫) is there to carry out the word of his or her Superior. As anyone of even moderate military rank knows, one cannot go to one’s Superior for every little thing. One has to know the letter, and put it into action with “absolute Self-Reliance, working in complete isolation, yet transmitting the word of his superior clearly, forcibly and subtly (6)”. “His work is to use these to support the authority of the Exempt Adept his superior. (This is not to be understood as an obligation of personal subservience or even loyalty; but as a necessary part of his duty to assist his inferiors. For the authority of the Teaching and governing Adept is the basis of all orderly work.)”. While the essay here appears to be speaking only of any Major Adept, it is clear how this applies to the job of the Imperātor, and it takes very little to see that every Adeptus Major, in the line from his or her Instructor down to the last Student, is in fact in one sense an Imperātor!

The Cancellārius (5◦=6▫) or Chancellor is generally the most well-known of the governing Triad, as he or she is the face of the Order to all new applicants. He or she is “to manifest the Beauty of the Order to the world, in the way that his superiors enjoin, and his genius dictates.” which, on the personal level of any Adeptus Minor, is exactly what the Cancellārius does for the Order as a whole. He or she not only records, but keeps records of all members, providing a central file so that, should any member lose touch with their Instructor through the latter’s death or the like, they will not be then shut out from the Order by way of a break in the chain. The Cancellārius provides for the examination of Students, and answers all queries directed towards the Order.

These Three Officers work together in a unique way, and in practice if one office is vacant another is voted into it by the other two. Agreement between them in such cases is important for harmonious functioning of the Triad as whole; and this is particularly true for the Cancellārius, who is in effect the public face of the Order. Other lineages may handle these latter interactions differently, but in the early birth pangs of our own, as its own being, have found these rules to be of immense practical value. Thus far concerning the Three Chiefs of the A∴A∴.

“Love is the law, love under will”

Frater H.A.


1. Lat. “secretary”; fem. Cancellāria. 

2. Lat. “commander; chief”; fem. Imperātrix.

3. Lat. “one who points out beforehand; guide, director”; fem. Imperātrix.

4. The Equinox V:4, Sex & Religion, (Nashville: Thelema Publishing Co., 1981). 

5. The Golden Dawn, ed. Israel Regardie (Llewellyn, 1992). 

6. These words also have another meaning, not obviously relevant to the present subject.