The Three Chiefs

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 Cancellārius1 (Chancellor), Imperātor2, & the Præmonstrātor3. 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 Record4: “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:

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”:

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

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 subtly6”. “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.

B., Præmonstrātor 7=4


[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.

On the Relationship Between a Probationer and His or Her Neophyte

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

“The Chancellor of A∴A∴ views without satisfaction the practice of Probationers working together. A Probationer should work with his Neophyte, or alone. Breach of this rule may prove a bar to advancement.”
—Official pronouncement, The Equinox, I:5.

At the very beginning of one’s approach to the Order known by the initials “A∴A∴”, one is confronted with the daunting Task of studying what, at first, seems to be a rather hefty set of books for a minimum of three months. After this time, the Student may request his or her Exam (which is “open book”, by the way) and, should he or she apply him or herself in answering the questions to the satisfaction of the Brother or Sister appointed to evaluate these matters, the Student is then immediately passed on to a member of the Order of the Grade of Neophyte 1=10 who shall receive him or her as a Probationer 0=0.

As all Probationers know, the Ceremony of Reception is a simple one, the general characteristics being that he listens to the reading of Liber LXI (Causæ): The History Lection, the Task of a Probationer, and after considering the matter for a time, takes and signs the Oath of a Probationer. No other single action at this grade is as significant, and some hold it to be the only necessary initiation one must take within the Order.

The principal business of the Probationer is to “begin such practices as he may prefer, and to write a careful record of the same for one year.”1 While there is an extensive curriculum from which the Probationer may choose, and even further all potential practices are open to him or her, it is suggested that one choose from the curriculum given as that material is what the Probationer and his or her Neophyte have in common: It is nearly impossible for one’s Neophyte to gauge the merits or demerits of a practice of which he or she has not even heard; hence the injunction that the very first time the Probationer enters such a practice into his or her Record he or she describes it fully, so at the least the Neophyte has some clue to what is even being done.

Frater O.M. 7=4 (Aleister Crowley) referred to the Instructor2 as “the sparring-partner of the pupil”. This implies that the Instructor may not always say what the student wants to hear…in fact, he shouldn’t! For if all he or she tells the student is what the student wants to believe, is not the student living in a room full or mirrors? What effect, then, has the Instructor had on the student, other than to more fully involve the student with him or herself in a narcissistic way?

At the heading of this short epistle was a quote from the editorial of The Equinox I:5. This was not lightly done: What I have seen since we have begun to take on several new members contacted online is the very problem that they have taken on too many instructors, be they people, blogs, websites, or the like. By taking in so many varying points the student does not have a chance to build his or her own foundation from which he or she can then alter things to their satisfaction: As the old saying goes, one has to know the rules to break them! Study the curriculum given; that is enough for any assiduous student, and doing otherwise demonstrates that the Probationer is not putting enough time into the material originally assigned! There is far more in Liber E and Liber O than many suspect, and I agree with Israel Regardie that the perceptive student could spend years on each paper!

The other issue is people: Many, if not most, of us, are members of some other magical society or group. This is to be expected, and one cannot reasonably leave these for a year or more during one’s period as a Probationer of A∴A∴. If you are a Freemason or Martinist, go to your lodge, etc. Such things are not a problem and no one could reasonably ask you to stop doing so. What is problematic is engaging another in one’s personal Work during your tenure as a Probationer. This kind of problem is, I believe, one of the primary reasons that that pronouncement was made in the first place back in 1911 e.v.

This is not an issue of control; far from it. The purpose of working alone is so that the Instructor can learn about you, and you alone. Once someone else becomes involved, the Instructor must wonder: “Is this the student’s insight, or was it given to him/her by another?”; “Did the student accomplish this, or was it due to the presence of the other?” These kinds of questions, as you can see, make it extremely difficult to assess the Probationer for advancement! And even if said Probationer was advanced in the outer sense, the “bar to advancement” clause is still valid, as he or she would have been advanced to a grade for which they were not spiritually prepared. In a nutshell, as Scientific Illuminists, the experiment would be tainted.

Wishing all Fratres and Sorores the very best in the Great Work!

Love is the law, love under will.

Frater בֶָּבלה
February 8, 2014 e.v., 16:19


[1] From ‘One Star in Sight’, found in Magick: Book IV, Liber ABA (Weiser, 1997), p. 489

[2] Crowley used the term ‘Superior’ in his time to refer to that relationship in the Order. We have followed the practice of Frater Adjuvo 2=9 (Marcelo Motta) in using ‘Instructor’; for how can a “King” have a “Superior”?