One of two secret societies closely associated with the legacy of British occultist and would-be Antichrist Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), the Argenteum Astrum (Latin for “silver star”) was created by Crowley in 1908 following the instructions of the Book of the Law, the revelation Crowley believed he had received in 1904 from the ruling powers of the world in the new Aeon of Horus. The Book of the Law instructed him to salvage what he could from the rituals of the previous Aeon of Osiris; in Crowley’s view, these included those of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the secret society in which Crowley received most of his magical training. See Crowley, Aleister; Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The major innovation Crowley brought to the A∴A∴ was a shift from formal lodge initiation to personal spiritual practice and experience as the means of advancement through the grades. To some extent this was forced on him by limits of the resources at hand, since during Crowley’s lifetime the A∴A∴ never amounted to more than Crowley himself and a handful of students. However, the transformation of the Golden Dawn grades from initiatory ranks to stages in the process of spiritual growth was an important contribution to the tradition, and had a strong influence on later Hermetic secret societies. See Hermeticism.
After Crowley’s death a handful of his students, notably the German occultist Karl Germer, revived the A∴A∴ and started teaching and initiating students on their own. The order has no formal organization at present, and consists of individual initiate-teachers and their students working with many different variants of Crowley’s teachings.
The order is occasionally misnamed the Atlantean Adepts as a result of a British reporter’s incorrect guess. During Crowley’s lifetime the meaning of the initials “A∴A∴” was a secret imparted by him to initiates under an oath of secrecy; one of the many newspaper exposés of the Great Beast guessed at the meaning, and missed.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006