Notes on the Original Student Reading List
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
By late 1911, Crowley noticed that many who approached the Great Work lacked the proper intellectual foundation. This was placing a huge burden upon teachers, most of which were Neophytes at the time. Hoping to alleviate the problem Crowley introduced the Student curriculum.
What follows are three versions of the required Reading Lists as published by Crowley. All three were released within in a year’s time which has led to some confusion. Yet, the lists are all similar and Crowley’s changes appear to be refinements in the system.
The Student Program was first announced in The Equinox, (Volume I: number VII), in 1912 and was quickly followed by a second rendition just six months later in Volume VIII. These first two lists are identical save for the later includes one additional title: The Tao Teh King and the writings of Kwang Tzu (or Sacred Books of the East, Vols. XXXIX, XL).
Just a few months later, the final version was published in Book 4 and reduced to just ten titles; but now included additional notes of interest.
Here is a copy of the Student material as published in The Equinox 1 Vol. VII:
In the publication of Book 4 the Student Curriculum appears in a section entitled “Summary”, following a fictionalized question and answer session in which Crowley gives an explanation of how one may “produce genius” via the A∴ A∴ system. And, in this sense the “Summary” provides a general overview of the principles of the A∴ A∴ system as envisioned by Crowley.
While this final rendition of the list is the more widely published, many still prefer one of the early versions; often believing them to be more complete. However, while the final list contains less titles it also references ten additional Libri regarding official instruction. (One of which is said to provide the “Key to Magick power”). The benefits from the practices given in these Libri should not be taken lightly – When combined with the principles outlined in the Summary and the knowledge provided in the Reading List, an overview of the entire A∴ A∴ system begins to emerge which should be thoroughly reviewed by the Aspirant.
Here is the Student material as published in Book 4.
Q. What is genius, and how is it produced?
A. Let us take several specimens of the species, and try to find some one thing common to all which is not found in other species.
Q. Is there any such thing?
A. Yes: all geniuses have the habit of concentration of thought, and usually need long periods of solitude to acquire this habit. In particular; the greatest religious geniuses have all retired from the world at one time or another in their lives, and begun to preach immediately on their return.
Q. Of what advantage is such a retirement? One would expect that a man who so acted would find himself on his return out of touch with his civilization, and in every way less capable than when he left.
A. But each claims, though in different language, to have gained in his absence some superhuman power.
Q. Do you believe this?
A. It becomes us ill to reject the assertions of those who are admittedly the greatest of mankind until we can refute them by proof, or at least explain how they may have been mistaken. In this case each teacher left instructions for us to follow. The only scientific method is for us to repeat their experiments, and so confirm or disprove their results.
Q. But their instructions differ widely!
A. Only insofar as each was bound by conditions of time, race, climate and language. There is essential identity in the method.
A. It was the great work of the life of Frater Perdurabo to prove this. Studying each religious practice of each great religion on the spot, he was able to show the Identity-in-diversity of all, and to formulate a method free from all dogmatic bias, and based only on the ascertained facts of anatomy, physiology, and psychology.
Q. Can you give me a brief abstract of this method?
A. The main idea is that the Infinite, the Absolute, God, the Oversoul, or whatever you may prefer to call it, is always present, but veiled or masked by the thoughts of the mind, just as one cannot hear a heartbeat in a noisy city.
A. Then to obtain knowledge of That, it is only necessary to still all thoughts.
Q. But in sleep thought is stilled?
A. True, perhaps, roughly speaking; but the perceiving function is stilled also.
Q. Then you wish to obtain a perfect vigilance and attention of the mind, uninterrupted by the rise of thoughts?
Q. And how do you proceed?
A. Firstly, we still the body by the practice called asana, and secure its ease and the regularity of its functions by pranayama. Thus no messages from the body will disturb the mind.
Secondly, by yama and niyama, we still the emotions and passions, and thus prevent them arising to disturb the mind.
Thirdly, by Pratyahara we analyze the mind yet more deeply, and begin to control and suppress thought in general of whatever nature.
Fourthly, we suppress all other thoughts by a direct concentration upon a single thought. This process, which leads to the highest results, consists of three parts, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, grouped under the single term Samyama.
Q. How can I obtain further knowledge and experience of this?
A. The A∴ A∴ is an organization whose heads have obtained by personal experience to the summit of this science. They have founded a system by which everyone can equally attain, and that with an ease and speed which was previously impossible.
The first grade in Their system is that of
A Student must study the following books:
- The Equinox.
- Konx Om Pax.
- Collected Works of A. Crowley: Tannhäuser, The Sword of Song, Time, Eleusis.
- Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda.
- The Shiva Sanhita or the Hathayoga Pradipika.
- The Tao Teh King and the writings of Kwang Tze: S.B.E. xxxix,xl.
- The Spiritual Guide, by Miguel de Molinos.
- Rituel et Dogme de la Haute Magie by Eliphas Levi, or its translation by A. E. Waite.
- The Goetia of the Lemegeton of Solomon the King.
Study of these books will give a thorough grounding in the intellectual side of Their system.
After three months the Student is examined in these books, and if his knowledge of them is found satisfactory, he may become a Probationer, receiving Liber LXI and the secret holy book, Liber LXV. The principal point of this grade is that the Probationer has a master appointed, whose experience can guide him in his work.
He may select any practices that he prefers, but in any case, must keep an exact record, so that he may discover the relation of cause and effect in his working, and so that the A∴ A∴ may judge of his progress, and direct his further studies.
After a year of probation, he may be admitted a Neophyte of the A∴ A∴, and receive the secret holy book Liber VII.
These are the principle instructions for practice which every probationer should follow out:Liber E, A, O, III, XXX, CLXXV, CC, CCVI, CMXIII, while the key to Magick Power is given in Liber CCCLXX.
Love is the law, love under will.