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Secret Chiefs (sometimes "Secret Chiefs of the A.'.A.'.") Aleister Crowley's term for those praeternatural entities which direct the progress of humanity for ends that are usually beyond the ken of mortal men. The Secret Chiefs are of at least the grade of Magus and Magister Templi, may or may not be in human form depending on their own needs at the time, and are utterly unknown to the rest of humanity except in the very rare times when they find it part of their plan to reveal themselves to one person.
Crowley stated that he believes that Aiwass, who dictated The Book of the Law to him, and Ab-ul-Diz and Amalantrah, entities he contacted in other workings, were all Secret Chiefs. In Magick Without Tears he also stated he suspected that a man of his acquaintance (whom he did not name in that particular article) was also a Secret Chief.
The Secret Chiefs are possessed of immense powers, called the "Ophidian Vibrations" which allow them to "insinuate [themselves] into any desired set of circumstances." (MWT, 9:92) These powers allow the Secret Chiefs "to induce a girl to embroider a taperstry, or initiate a political movement to culminate in a world-war; all in pursuit of some plan wholly beyond the purview or the comprehension of the deepest and subtlest thinkers." (MWT, 9:92-93)
The primary discussion of the Secret Chiefs is in Magick Without Tears, chapter 9, although the term appears in many of Crowley's writings. In his Confessions, Crowley often discusses the events of his own life in terms of what he supposes to have been the plans of the Secret Chiefs.
Precedents and Early History
Crowley's immediate source for the idea of Secret Chiefs was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which subscribed to the notion, and justified its operation with reference to them. Nineteenth century occultism was full of various sorts of "hidden masters," however. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor referred to an "Interior Circle" of enlightened masters who could be contacted clairvoyantly. The Mahatmas (literally, "Great Souls") of the Theosophical Society were another important case. Johnson's Masters Revealed explores the possibility that, rather than otherworldly guides or fictional sources of legitimacy, the Theosophical Mahatmas were historical persons with whom Blavatsky associated.
Possibly the earliest example of the Secret Chiefs concept is found in the "Unknown Superiors" (Superiores Incognitii) of the Rite of Strict Observance, a Templarist Masonic body established by Baron von Hund in the mid-eighteenth century. Some writers (Kenneth MacKenzie, for example) believed that Hund's superiors were the Jesuits. At about the same time, however, the German Gold- und Rosenkreuz order also referred to its own mysterious secret chiefs (unbekannte Oberen).
- Crowley, Aleister. (1991). Magick Without Tears. Israel Regardie, ed. New Falcon Publications.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1989). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography. Edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. London: Arkana.
- Godwin, Joscelyn, Christian Chanel, John P. Deveney. (1995). The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism. York Beach: Weiser.
- Johnston, K. Paul. (1994). The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge. Albany: SUNY Press.
- MacKenzie, Kenneth. (1877). The Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia. (reprint) Kila: Kessinger.
- McIntosh, Christopher. (1997). The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, andn Rituals of an Esoteric Order. (3rd revised edition). York Beach: Weiser.