All the peculiarity of this place lies in one straightforward fact, though the Aspirant refuses to accept it, which is that he learns a lot more from the Student than from his own Superior. The vast majority have a misconception about teachers. We do not obtain teaching from the Superior – it comes by observation of the Student. The Superior merely provides testimony and validation of our path. Still, the Student is the embodiment of the Superior to himself, and everything he does not like about the Student is indeed what he sees in himself. The Student is Angel’s assistant, and the Superior is merely a gardener, even though the holy rose at the center of that garden, from which emerges a cross, does not depend on cultivation. The gardener is only there to lead us with love through the garden of God to our rose, but contributes little to the process. However, the signs and directions he provides are the most wonderful things we will ever see in our holy Order.
In the same way as one’s parental feelings simply cannot be explained to one who is childless, the Aspirant cannot be aware of the longing of the Goddess Nuit for her children, or the aspiration of the Will to get assimilated into the great Nothingness of Pan unless he has taken a Student under his wing. It is an entirely natural process manifesting itself in its own way. This process cannot be transmitted to someone else in advance, nor is it possible to be unveiled at a predetermined time.
The role of the Superior is to be a fellow sufferer, a wandering companion, a witness of the sacred act of the Oath which the Student undertakes. The nature of their relationship is commiseration as much as companionship, and not fraternity in the usual sense of that word – to be a witness on the Student’s journey and his shadow companion is the true function of the Superior.
The Student is an ever-present shadow reminding him of the constancy of the light behind. One can say that the Neophyte’s role has not been fully realized unless he has taken on a Probationer, but that in no way means that the path without a Student is invalid. However, the act of passing the link down to the Probationer completes a full circle. As the Superior moves forward with the Student following, the power seems to be flowing through him neatly and properly. With his signature on two different Oaths – his own and his Student’s – the testimony is complete. Yet, this does not mean that his path is destined for such an act. The Superior reflects the Student’s Angel, and the whole manner of his relationship is just a pale imitation of the Student’s Knowledge and Conversation. Being fully aware of this relationship grants the Aspirant an exquisite epiphany of the Pantheon of our Æon.
A Neophyte must remain aware that there is no good or bad guidance, just as there is no good or bad Student. The Superior’s influence is limited to ensuring that the rules of the Order are conveyed zealously and accurately – even though each rule is open to interpretation. It is often said during national elections that who counts the votes matters more than the number of votes counted, but it is inappropriate to suggest that a similar attitude is present in our dealings. Nevertheless, we must always acknowledge one indisputable fact – we are all human beings and everything that entails. We are all prone to anger, fatigue, betrayal, and neurosis.
How on earth are we going to treat the Student then? The Neophyte must consider the relationship with the Student as a dialogue between him and his God – always and on any occasions. As far as details are concerned, everything can be found in our books:
Liber 13 vel Graduum Montis Abiegni
Liber 33 – An Account of A∴A∴
Liber 61 vel Causae
Liber 185 – Liber Collegii Sancti
Liber 207 – A Syllabus of the Official Instructions of the A∴A∴
Liber 489 – One Star in Sight
Memorizing a chapter of the “Book of the Heart Girth with a Serpent” causes quite a unique dizziness in the minds of many Students. They refer to that chapter so often that they forget all else, making it seem as if this holy book was composed of just that one, horrifying chapter. On the contrary, one must consider what happens with those chapters not learned by heart. This perhaps is of greater importance than the chapter that was memorized. Therefore, one must make his chosen chapter fuel for the fire arising within his own soul, and a muster field from which he sets off to wage his war. Learning a chapter by heart is not to be a simple act of memorization. The Student must be able to start from any verse, quote the previous verse, and even recount the entire chapter backward if necessary. Inventiveness may be more rewarding than mere learning by heart. I remember that my Superior, once in possession of my diary and practice records supplied after weeks and weeks of preparation and coming to him fully prepared and equally terrified, briefly asked if I had learned a chapter. After I had answered in the affirmative, I took a deep breath and prepared to recite my presentation. Immediately, he only said, “Right.” And that was the end of it. In fact, I had recited it many times before – just on my own. But again, every Superior has his ideal way of asking, just as each and every Student has his ideal way of giving. In symbiosis, these two paths indeed find their manifestation in an infinite number of different variants, which, in turn, always point to the same thing.
In a vast number of cases, written parts of the exams represent pressure exerted on the Student, which must be channeled in different and creative ways. Sometimes it is not a good idea to assign exam questions right after the Oath has been taken, and the grade has just started. It may be beneficial to wait for a month or two before the end of the grade. In some cases, exam questions should be taken every couple of weeks, preferably not before the previous one has been satisfactorily answered.
Of course, the Superior ought to be able to change questions, but without deviating from the plan of progress or its principles. He should recognize which aspects of the Student’s being responds to specific questions. For example, one Student can be astoundingly proficient at Gematria and yet so utterly incompetent with dream analysis and interpretation of personal symbols that his presentations will appear childish.
There are Students who are fully aware of their path from the first day of taking their Oath. There are those who simply need time to adjust to new circumstances. There are those of a fighting type who see a plot against their own Great Work in everything, and there are those who are endlessly skeptical. Yet again, they are so utterly frightened with such a concrete sense of fear that their Angel will everlastingly hide somewhere deep in the shadow of terrifying darkness. But they all seem to need only two things: love and confidence.
The Student has a dual function in the life of the Neophyte in that he both servers as his opposite and objectification of himself. The mistakes the Student makes cause the Neophyte to see more clearly, and by teaching the Student, he teaches himself. In this way, the Student is an aspect of the Angel – the aspect that imprints the nature of the Bodhisattva upon the Neophyte’s being. The Bodhisattva is the one who refuses to get enlightened until the last being in the Universe is realized in Buddha, therefore choosing to remain in this world and to help other souls. This relationship is a precious psychological machine; a mistake made in our path is something that can be undone with little risk when the Neophyte has a younger and less experienced person with him. The good of the individual Neophyte loses significance in comparison to the good of the Student in charge of him. This commitment to nurturing reveals the high value of this endeavor. It serves as both a brake by continually returning the Neophyte’s consciousness to the halfway point and as a constant indication that the Great Work is still ahead. When dealing with others, we are dealing with ourselves. This entire process is a reminder of our morality, as illustrated by this divine instruction for our Order:
“He is furthermore trained to the one habit essential to Membership of the A∴A∴; he must regard all his attainments as primarily the property of those less advanced aspirants who are confided to his charge.”
[Liber CDLXXXIX, Aleister Crowley]
It must be considered essential that every Aspirant works and keeps diaries for the sake of his magical child who will inherit it all. A strong and profoundly intuitive feeling arises when we devote ourselves to thinking about our magical unborn inner child to whom we leave all of this behind. Even if we have children in the physical world, that inner child is someone far more unique, precious, and different from anything else in the physical realm. It is a special urge far beyond being a parent – an urge to leave our heritage to the starry sky. In any case, contemplating this concept can be a great meditation for the Aspirant, if nothing else.
Regarding the Student’s oppositional function, the vacuum of his lack of understanding draws upon the inexhaustible strength of the Neophyte’s Binah with force and energy akin to the Probationer’s original enthusiasm. It is an ideal opportunity for the Great Mother to ground the Student as he ventures into the eternal dream of the unconsciousness and advances from the lack of talent and progress to the first hints of mastery over things he previously had no access to. Nevertheless, the Student’s talents are often a major liability to him as he may unconsciously pause along his path to compensate for what he has missed. Yet even as the hindrance of this shadow-fight rages within him, Angel’s power will strike and propel him forward, removing dried mud from his wings, so to speak, thus increasing the speed of his ascent. That blow delivered by the Angel is interpreted as pain by the Neophyte, who is yet unaware that such pain is the projection of light. He must recognize that the pain-induced knowledge gained from each event is a specific form of Conversation between him and his God, insofar as there is neither threat nor distress that is not Adonai in essence. Binah will find many ways to mock and counter the perceptions of the Student, which are so unique to each Probationer that it is not worth drawing any premature conclusions.
But how much does it take for liveliness to dwell in the being of the Superior who watches the Student who cuts his own way through jungle and him paving that way with gold? How small is each piece of Superior’s own experience in relation to Student’s growth? The Superior will find a divine transfer in his own Student, not for the purpose of his downfall or attainment, but for that divine order of things, which like the theatre of the Universe reflects the whole nature of our great Order. It is to receive and to be received, seek and be let in. Their relationship is more exalted than their individual roles in the Tantric ritual; in fact, their relationship is the true Tantra. Everything else is just a vague semblance of that sublime game played by the Superior and the Student. Every Superior is an awakened Student, and every Student is a sleeping Superior. The Student, the Superior, and the Angel as well are all integral factors in the game of light and shadows of the great eclipse. Each of them is equally the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun in their own moments.
One thing that should definitely be mentioned is the creation of specific sexual energy, which, when united with the Student’s presence in the life of the Neophyte, can have a disastrous outcome. This pressure is equally present in the case of the Zelator, but in a different form, less dangerous, so to say, for he is now directly protected by the Sun and the Angel for the first time, and his path has already moved far beyond so that the power of the Earth cannot have such a terrible influence as is the case of the Neophyte. For the Zelator, the influences of the Moon are already much more significant, while the Neophyte remains firmly under the rule of the great Mother and Binah, who, as the lord of the earthly element, closely watches over his flock in this sphere. This idea presents itself in the form of a Kundry, that is, a Vampire facing the Neophyte and strongly influencing his path. There will undoubtedly be more to say about this particular circumstance.
It is one thing to experience Probation as a Probationer, yet it is quite different to experience it from the perspective of the Neophyte under whose charge the Probationer is. It is a tale so fantastic that it is impossible to convey it with ready-made instructions or words, as is precisely the case with the child – the role of the parent is something that comes as a reward rather than a burden. Therefore, the Student is the prize for the Neophyte; this is really the only correct way to think of it.
It is convenient to ask the Probationer to analyze the particulars of the day he signed his Oath. The Neophyte can then compare the analysis of the day of his own assumption with that of his Student. The aspects of such a comparison will leave a lasting impact. The Superior should understand the Student’s day as a special event within his own birth chart, which he will expand with this information and explore the extent to which it reflects upon his soul. The Superior should also liken this task to calculating comparative natal charts if he so wishes. He should also watch for hidden messages from his own Angel while doing his best to recognize the envoy of light in his Student as if he had caught a spy who was indeed in possession of the information he had to retrieve back under the threat of terrible torture and execution.
It can be observed that certain grades can be of similar nature, in the same way grades themselves have a certain nature that tends to be uniform, so the cooperation between the grades of the Superior and the Student has its own character. Caution should be taken with these observations because they really are nothing more than an analysis of some motivating dream, in which one may or may not find a connection to the Great Event. All that can be said about this theme is contained in the following:
Sometimes the crown of a relationship is reflected in the Superior; sometimes, it is in the Student. And just as every relationship needs participants, it cannot be said whether the Student or the Superior is the main trigger here, they both seem to be participating in the phenomenon in the same way. But, of course, every relationship is unique, just as the experience of each grade is itself unique and authentic.
Every transfer of force involves two components: a lever and support. In a broader understanding, these also exist in the interactions of small gears with larger ones. We do not acknowledge attainment until it is transferred to another soul who joins his Superior in his place, or until the transference of one’s experience awakens someone else. Two souls, driven by identical motivations, attaining identifiable distinctiveness in their life. The final outcome is always the same thing – the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
Embracing the Student awakens many aspects within the Superior, of which the pedagogical aspect is but one. The phenomenon of psychological transfer is very important. At first, one is tempted to see this as success, but the nature of every transfer is actually a kind of failure. While it is true that authenticity demands every event to be distinguished from every other event, it is nevertheless correct to present the transference as an integral aspect of the great wholeness that binds all things. The Aspirant needs to confront every idea with its opposite; only in this way can all of this make sense. The Superior is a past Student; the Student is a future Superior. It is the same character reflected in the mirror, who might as well be millions of light-years away, and once that light of reflection returns, he is now marvelously looking and wondering at a beautiful child in the mirror – who is actually himself.
One day, an old professor met a young man who asked him, “Do you remember me?” The old man said he did not. Therefore, the man told him that he had once been his disciple. The professor asked him, “Ah, yes? And what do you do now?” The young man replied, “I am a teacher.” “Oh, how wonderful, just like me,” replied the old man. “Yes. I actually became a teacher because it was you who inspired me to be like you.”
The old man was curious and asked him to explain how it was possible, and the young man told him the story:
“One day, a friend of mine came to school with a beautiful new watch, and I stole it from him. Soon my friend noticed the theft and immediately complained to our teacher, and it was you. Then you told all of us in class: “A watch belonging to one of your friends was stolen during today’s class. Whoever stole it, please return it.” However, I did not want to give it back, so nobody moved. Then you closed the door and told us to get up so you could search through our pockets, one by one. However, before that, you had told us to close our eyes. We did that, and you searched through one pocket at a time, and when you came to me, you found the watch and took it. You kept searching through everyone else’s pockets, and when you were done, you said, “Open your eyes. I found the watch.” After that, you never said anything to me, and you never revealed the name of the culprit to the rest of the class. That day, you saved my dignity forever. Otherwise, that would have been the most embarrassing day of my life. Thereafter, you never mentioned anything to me about the theft. Although you did not yell at me or give me a moral lesson, I learned the lesson, nonetheless. Thanks to you, I realized that was how a real educator should act. Can you recall that event, professor?”
The professor replied: “I remember the case of the stolen watch very well and that I searched the pockets of all the students, but I do not remember that it was you, nor could I have known. Because, you see, as I was searching your pockets, I kept my eyes closed too.”
There are two essential transfers in this matter of ours, and both are equally magnificent. Although different, they are both aiming at the same target – the Great Work. The first transfer is the Motto of the Aspirant himself – representing his first failed attempt at the Great Work. However, the second transfer comes a little later and is presented by the reception of the Student – which is just a shadow of an event to come. But both of these mechanisms, are they anything but reflections of the ultimate Sun? Aren’t these “failed” celebration festivities of something that has already been attained?
Yet, as long as there is a need for leverage, as long as there is a need to use any force, we can say that the matter has not come to fruition. If there remains a need for rituals, vibrations, exchange of knowledge, invocations and appeals, incantations, barbaric names, and taking the Oaths, we can reasonably say that we are little more than starving ghosts.
Neophyte’s grade is a grade with a significant percentage of loss. Probationers are resigning, while Neophytes are failing, and we often need to think about this relationship. What this all points to is the impact of quantity upon the development of the Probationer, while in the case of Neophyte, it is a qualitative leap that he must make to overcome the task of the grade.
Although it is widespread for Neophytes to desire to take on Students, sometimes those good intentions pave the road to hell. The Student’s task is to move on, while the Superior’s task is to make that possible, but he can never vouch for such an undertaking. Nevertheless, we must always consider that it might not be possible to “fail” at something as sublime as the Great Work. We must make a distinction between the Great Work and the grade. If the inevitable completion of the Great Work is indeed assured, would that mean that passing to the next grade is likewise settled? Failing the grades does not equate to the ultimate fail. At university, the Student is allowed to take and retake exams under certain circumstances, and it is up to him to determine his own pace of progress and completion of his studies. This matter is entirely left to one’s Superior to decide, all according to his Student’s personality and affinities. Our standpoint is that you have already achieved everything; you cannot “fail” at something which you already “are.” What then do we mean by the term “fail”? Is it a terminal state or just a phase? More importantly, failing in relation to what? Is it even possible that a soul will fail to perform the Great Work, given that he already has the most precious gift and weapon in the Universe – his Will? Do we not keep failing each day and continue to get back up time after time until the final realization? Having achieved this ourselves, can we conceive that this final realization will not happen for someone else? Truth be told, I have never believed one could fail. The Great Work is not someone’s condition; it is his claim. There is no failing. There is only the fear of failing.
All of this must not serve as an annulment of one of the highest essential principles of our Order, which reads:
“Probationers are reminded that the object of Probations and Ordeals is one: namely, to select Adepts. But the method appears twofold: (i) to fortify the fit; (ii) to eliminate the unfit.”
It may be far best to think of this as two limbs of one and the same body. We have to get used to the fact that one principle does not exclude the other. Any generalization and general understanding lead to the total destruction of the progress of an individual. Each case is unique, and all rules must be applied simultaneously to all the cases, which will cause two completely different phenomena to occur in two different individuals. Indeed, an end justifies any means in our work. Since our goal has always been one thing – the Knowledge and the Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, so must all means be subordinated to that sacred endeavor. Everything is possible here, and nothing is certain. We have no right but to instruct an individual to proceed further, by all means, and in any way.
Let the Student know that progress is entirely in his own hands, and that both failure and success are his birthrights and his guided choice. And when all the influences and meanness of the Superior, at least in his opinion, crash through him, he is the one who will let it overcome him or let it have a meaningful impact upon his path.
“In a small village, once there lived a wise old man to whom everyone turned for guidance and advice. One day, a young boy decided he would confront the old man with a question that he knew the old man would not be able to answer correctly. His plan was to find a little bird and hold it cupped in his hands, hidden from sight. He would then approach the wise old man and ask him to guess what he had buried in his hands. If the old man answered it correctly, he would then ask him the zinger – whether the bird is alive or dead? If the old man said the bird was alive, the boy would crush the bird with his hands and kill it, thereby proving the old man wrong. But if the old man said it was dead, the boy would open his hands and let the bird fly free, demonstrating at last that the old man was not as wise as everyone thought him to be.
A boy ventured off and found a little sparrow that fit neatly within his hands. Then he approached an old man and said: “wise old man, can you tell what I have in my hands?” “Why, of course, I can,” the old man responded without hesitation. “From all the small feathers clinging to your jacket and pants, it is plain to see it is a little bird that you have cradled in your hands.” “Ah, that is so,” the young boy exclaimed, “but is the bird alive or dead?” The old man paused for a moment then rubbed his chin in contemplation of his response. Looking at the young boy in the eyes, the old man replied in a soft tone: “whether the bird is alive or dead is inside of your choice. The answer is in your hands.”
We can never really claim that someone is unfit for a grade, or even claim that someone is not fit for the Great Work; quite the opposite – we must claim that everyone could make it. To what extent, it is up to the Superior to provoke and investigate. Nevertheless, he must not put upon himself the weakening need to help everyone in every way equally – one size does not fit all. It is better to help a particular person properly rather than everyone equally, for that one person, having attained, will help everyone else.
But let every Neophyte consider the projection of Binah who, by the time he passed through the Ritual of the Pyramid, has already begun to growl and threaten him. And that growling will grow into the rigor of the Neophyte, and though it is all in the spirit of our Order, he must not project that same rigor onto his Probationer. Yes, indeed – being the Probationer is for one year. Our Probation is, however, for the whole life.