A?A?
A secret society founded by Aleister Crowley (1875–1947)
comprised of three orders: the Silver Star, the Rosy Cross, and
the Golden Dawn. This society is also described as the Great
White Brotherhood, although that is a term more properly applied
by Theosophists. The initials A?A? indicate Argenteum
Astrum, and the triangle of dots signify a secret society connected
with ancient mysteries.
During his period in the Hermetic Order of the Golden
Dawn (GD), Crowley believed that he had reached the exalted
stage of the Silver Star and was thus a Secret Chief of the Golden
Dawn. After 1906 Crowley launched his own order of the
Silver Star, or A?A?, using rituals and teachings taken from
the Golden Dawn.
In March 1909 he began publishing the magazine the Equinox,
as the official organ of the A?A?, including rituals of the
Outer Order of the Society in the second number. This
alarmed members of the Golden Dawn, who wished their rituals
to remain secret, and S. L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the
Golden Dawn chiefs, took legal action to restrain Crowley from
continuing to publish the rituals. Although a temporary injunction
was granted, Mathers did not have funds to contest an appeal
setting this aside, and Crowley continued to publish his
own version of GD secret rituals.
In addition to the publicity from this legal action, Crowley
also gained additional notice through public performance of
‘‘the Rites of Eleusis’’ at Caxton Hall, University of London, in
1910. This ceremony comprised seven invocations of the gods,
with dancing by Crowley’s disciple Victor Neuburg, violin playing
by Leila Waddel (named by Crowley as his ‘‘Scarlet
Woman’’), and recital of Crowley’s poems. The performances
were impressive, if bewildering to ordinary members of the
public, who were charged a fee of five guineas a head. Not surprisingly,
in the prudish atmosphere of the time, there were
sharp criticisms of such a daring presentation.
A hostile review of the Rites appeared in the journal the
Looking Glass, mocking the lyrics as ‘‘gibberish.’’ In a further
issue, the Looking Glass published sensational allegations about
Crowley and his associates Allan Bennett and George Cecil
Jones. In response, Jones sued the journal in 1911, and Crowley
obtained considerable publicity through the court hearing.
Although Crowley must have reveled in such public attention,
he lost several friends through it, in particular his disciple J. F.
C. Fuller, who had written the eulogy of Crowley titled The Star
in the West (1907).
Meanwhile, Crowley had joined another secret order, the
Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which strongly emphasized the
power of sex magic. After Crowley departed to the United
States toward the end of 1914, the A?A? ceased working as a
group in London.
Sources:
King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England: 1887 to the Present
Day. London: Neville Spearman, 1970.

Suster, Gerald. The Legacy of the Beast. York Beach, Maine:
Samuel Weiser, 1989.
Symonds, John. The Great Beast: The Life and Magick of Aleister
Crowley. London: Macdonald, 1971. Rev. ed. London: Mayflower,
1973.
———. The King of the Shadow Realm. London: Duckworth,
1989.

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