In modern esotericism, there exist three types of esoteric orders. These fall into two general categories; symbolical and operative. Among the operative orders, there are those which are analogical (lunar) or direct (solar). At the simplest level we find the "symbolical" orders like Freemasonry and the outer order of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In these orders, spiritual wisdom is presented in symbolical form; either exclusively during the initiation rituals in the case of Freemasonry, or together with supplemental study materials as in the case of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the outer.
At the more advanced level come the so-called, "operative" orders. Operative orders employ special magical or alchemical "operations" for spiritual development. In a further distinction, there exist two kinds of operative systems and orders. Firstly, in the "analogical," operative systems, practitioners operate with systems referring by analogy to yet higher, more direct, and more advanced operations and systems. Analogical operative systems are thus called "lunar" mysteries as, much as the moon reflects the light of the Sun, their light is reflected by analogical reference to higher operative processes. Nonetheless, despite her reflective nature, the moon indeed remains a luminary. So also the analogical operative systems remain powerful tools for spiritual development in and of themselves, despite their analogical nature.
Many things in modern times called "Rosicrucian" have no real reference the historical Rosicrucian tradition. There do, however, exist certain sets of spiritual practices that have been employed by the Rosicrucian tradition since earliest times. These Rosicrucian practices have always been operative rather than merely symbolical in nature and have concerned themselves primarily with magic (theurgy) and alchemy. The best example of a Rosicrucian, magical order is the RR+AC, the Second Order of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. An outstanding example of a Rosicrucian, alchemical order was the 18th Century, Gold und Rosenkreutz Order in Germany.
Alchemy, until today, remains the most occulted part of the Western Esoteric Tradition. As a consequence, more nonsense has been written about alchemy than any other aspect of Western esotericism. C.G. Jung, the Swiss psychologist, saw symbolical patterns in alchemical drawings that he used to justify his own theories regarding the collective nature of the human psyche. In a more recent development, Adam MacLean has developed a modern school of mysticism using meditation upon alchemical images. In addition to these modern, systematic interpretations of alchemy, the name has also been misused to describe almost anything transformative. For example, in certain initiatic circles, it has become popular to refer to the "alchemy" of grade work in referring to spiritual growth.
All of these modern psychological, mystical, and developmental interpretations of alchemy, however, have little or nothing to do with the true nature of alchemy, which remains one of the best-kept esoteric secrets in modern times. Even clear instructions for the "analogical" operations of alchemical laboratory processes remain by and large concealed.
There are many ways that alchemists have passed along their wisdom to other initiates, yet protecting it from revelation to the profane. Most classical alchemical texts and series of alchemical images, for example, refer to alchemical processes by analogy and Hermetic allegory, hiding their mysteries behind Hermetic symbolism. The folly of the Jungian psychological interpretation of alchemical images is the clearest demonstration of the effectiveness of this method of concealment. Regarding the occult nature of alchemy, the Jungians best prove the truth of the classical, alchemical maxim that "Neither torches nor glasses will help those without eyes to see."
There does exist, however, a second class of alchemical documents. These documents, such as certain documents deriving from the 18th Century Gold und Rosenkreutz Order, were written exclusively for the eyes of initiates. These documents, therefore are not obscured by Hermetic allegory and symbolism, but rather clearly describe laboratory processes. These documents were protected in a different way. They were coded in certain key places using Rosicrucian ciphers, the keys of which were given only to initiates of the proper grade in the Order.
It is a little known fact that even the most hidden laboratory processes of alchemy, no matter how well concealed they have been down through the centuries, are 99% themselves analogical (lunar) operations, as are the magical operations of the Second Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the RR+AC. These alchemical operations also refer by analogy to higher operative systems of the direct, solar, mysteries.
The Solar mysteries comprise an operative tradition that lies at the apex of the Rosicrucian as well as the entire Western Esoteric tradition. The Solar operative tradition represents the capstone of the entire Western Esoteric Tradition, lying as it does upon the Hermetic pillars Alchemy and Theurgy. Here, we find not some mere mystical meditation upon alchemical images or psychological nonsense, but rather the supreme esoteric corpus of operative practices that all other genuine magical and alchemical operations only refer to by analogy. It is the summun bonum, the apex of the pyramid. Very little may be revealed about the solar mysteries, except that that they comprise the most jealously guarded and secret part of the Western Esoteric Tradition and involve the true and most secret preparation, rectification, and multiplication of the philosopher's stone. In the Rosicrucian Order of A+O, the solar mysteries shine forth with the direct light of the Sun in our Third Order at the level of the Supernal Sephiroth, and are seen but reflected in the lunar mysteries below the veil of Daath.
Indeed, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was originally conceived as a three order system. The outer order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, was a symbolical order. The Second Order, the RR+AC was operative, practicing a Qabalistic and Enochian magical system, yet working at the level of the lunar, analogical mysteries. The Third Order was supposed to place the capstone upon the pyramid, with the operative tradition of the solar mysteries. History was to prevent this from happening, however. While S.L. MacGregor Mathers was still manifesting his brilliant synthesis of Qabalistic and Enochian magic for the Second Order, the Adepts of the RR+AC rebelled in London, provoking the order's first schism. This was quickly followed by the Horos scandal and by the betrayal of the order by Aleister Crowley, who despite his oaths published the secret teachings of the RR+AC, thus preventing the completion of the entire Three Order system for over a century.
Crowley's publication of the RR+AC's operative magical corpus, although of benefit to the wider esoteric community, was a disaster for the RR+AC. The Rosicrucian Order of A+O correctly recognized the gravity of this situation caused for its Second Order by Crowley's betrayal. On the one hand, the RR+AC egregore had become polluted by the usage of its magical corpus by the general public, including for egotistical and black magical purposes. On the other hand, it had become hypocritical to require oaths of secrecy from Adepts regarding well known and published material.
Thus, in 1999, the Rosicrucian Order of A+O proclaimed the "Reformatio Fraternitatis Anno 1999,": according to the ancient rule of the Rosicrucian order, which requires a general reformation of the order's system every one hundred and eleven (111) years. The previous general reformations had occurred in 1888 (year of the founding of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as well as of two other Rosicrucian orders in France), 1777 (the year of the general reformation of the Gold und Rosenkreutz order in Germany), 1666, etc.
As the first step the 1999 Reformation, all RR+AC materials that had been profaned by publication were moved to the A+O's outer order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. As a consequence, the Outer Order of the A+O became an operative as well as a symbolical order. In the new millennium, due to the prevalence of published works on magic, many individuals today no longer need to spend years learning only theory and through symbols presented in initiation rituals as was the case of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888. Today, many individuals are well prepared to begin with magical operations immediately upon their reception in the A+O's Outer Order. Esoteric schools, if they are to survive and remain effective, must not only remain traditional, but must also evolve to meet the changing needs of their times.
Next we set out to reform the Second Order of the Rosicrucian Order of A+O, the RR+AC. This, it turned out, was a Herculean task, and required several years to fully accomplish. The greatest challenge was to re-create a secret Second Order curriculum that remained traditionally Rosicrucian, yet served the same spiritual function as did the original RR+AC. Our order was in a unique position to attempt this, as we had inherited a vast corpus of esoteric and alchemical documents deriving from earlier Rosicrucian orders and groups.
This turned out to be a far greater task that we could ever have possibly imagined, however. There were several major obstacles to overcome. The first and greatest problem was that all Rosicrucian groups prior to the RR+AC had been primarily concerned with alchemy rather than with magic. Thus our reformed curriculum would have to include alchemy as well as magic.
GH Frater DLS (Jean-Pascal Ruggiu, the present Imperator of the Ahathoor Temple No 7 in Paris) had been a member of the French FAR+C, and thus had maintained an alchemical laboratory in his home and practiced the "wet way" (le voie humide) for many years. Furthermore, our order was fortunate enough to have inherited literally hundreds of alchemical laboratory processes clearly described in original Rosicrucian documents at our disposal, together with all of the necessary cipher keys to decode the ciphered parts.
Additionally, GH Frater LES (David Griffin) had the necessary linguistic talents translate the alchemical processes described in German in the original Rosicrucian documents. The deciphering and translation of these processes, however, was compounded, however, by the nearly impenetrable orthography of 18th Century German.
More importantly, which of the hundreds of alchemical processes, should be deciphered and translated? Which processes were those essential to the to the reformed Second Order curriculum? Tragically, despite having access to extremely rare documents clearly describing processes that had been carefully concealed for hundreds of years, GH Fraters DLS and LES realized that they had become hopelessly lost in the alchemical labyrinth. Together, they stood at the edge of an impenetrable abyss. There was no way back. The Reformation had been proclaimed. Yet there was no way forward either, as the labyrinth loomed in every direction. The Reformation stood on the brink of failure.
It is a spiritual maxim that "The darkest hour comes always just before the dawn." And so it was as the GH Chiefs of the Rosicrucian Order of A+O had reached the limits of their own abilities and despaired in their own "dark night of the soul" that, as by a miracle, guidance was granted from the invisible and help arrived from on high.
It was in this hour of greatest need that the Rosicrucian Order of A+O was contacted by a man identifying himself as "Frater Lux et Tenebris," a representative of an extremely secretive and ancient European western mystery school. This most occult of all orders originated in Sumer, continued in Chaldea and in Egypt, and was brought to Europe by the Greek and Roman empires. At an historic meeting in Paris with GH Fraters DLS and LES, Frater Lux et Tenebris provided our order with the teachings and esoteric corpus of the solar, direct mysteries, together with cipher manuscripts for the initiation rituals to comprise the Third Order of the Rosicrucian Order of A+O. Thanks to the collaboration between Frater Lux et Tenebris and the Rosicrucian Order of A+O, it became possible for the progression of the three orders originally conceived for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to finally come to fruition.
It also, of course, became possible to complete the reformation of the RR+AC, the Second Order of the Rosicrucian Order of A+O. Indeed, it was only from the perspective of the Third Order that the Second Order could be successfully reformed. It became easy to choose which magical (theurgical) and alchemical processes were essential to the Second Order (RR+AC) in order to prepare the Adept for the advanced, solar mysteries of the Third Order. Thus we overcame what initially had seemed an impossible obstacle for the reformation.
The reformed Second Order of the Rosicrucian Order of A+O thus came to include both Alchemy and Magic (Theurgy) deriving almost entirely from earlier Rosicrucian sources and successfully preparing the Adept for more advanced, Third Order studies. The system of sub-grades originally envisioned by S.L. MacGregor Mathers was incorporated together with the basic alchemical pattern of progression of the Gold und Rosenkreutz order.
For example, in the Gold und Rosenkreutz, the Initiate began with a study of classical alchemical texts and theoretical alchemy up through the grade of Theoricus. In the A+O the new adept does likewise up through the sub-grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor. It is not until the sub-grade of Practicus Adeptus Minor that the A+O Adept begins with the first practical alchemical operations, as was the case in the grade of Practicus in the Gold und Rosenkreutz. This progression is echoed again in the sub-grades of Adeptus Major and Adeptus Exemptus, although the Adept works with more and more advanced, clearly explained, alchemical operations.
On the magical (Theurgical) side, the A+O Adept, having worked with Qabalistic and Enochian magic already in the First Order, works with ever earlier and more powerful systems of Egyptian, Chaldaean, and Sumerian magical systems as he or she progresses through the Second and Third orders.
The final remaining challenge in reforming the RR+AC was to protect and close the system so that it would be extremely difficult for any single individual to harm the order through by revealing its system, as had happened previously with Aleister Crowley. This was accomplished by presenting the various magical and alchemical systems progressively, bit by bit, through the various sub-grades of the Second Order. Thus only Adepti Exempti (7=4) hold the keys to the complete systems, with the final key unlocking their full power and synthesis reserved exclusively for the final sub-grade of Adeptus Adeptus Exemptus. Thus only a Portal candidate of the Third Order is in the position to reveal the entire system rather than a mere Minor Adept (5=6) as was Crowley.
The wisdom of protecting the reformed Second Order curriculum in this way was quickly proven when an early draft outline proposal to reform the 5=6 curriculum was made available in a private area of our web site for discussion among Adepti. Through an oversight, an administrative secretary inappropriately gained access to this rough outline and without permission made it available to two Outer Order members! One of these members, leaving the order under a cloud, attempted to coerce our order, threatening to distribute our "curriculum" or publish this "sensitive" information.
This treacherous individual had no idea of the precautions that we had taken against just such an eventuality or that the document in question contained, in fact, little more of value than an early proposal for a reading list of classical alchemical texts and images for newly initiated, beginning Adepts. Our order called the bluff of this imposter, of course, and he was exposed as the imposter that he is. This proved highly embarrassing as well for several other individuals who had been shown this "important" document, including the leader of another order who had been foolish enough to brag on the Internet that he had gained "intimate knowledge" of our "reformed curriculum." Thus our forsight and precautions netted not only their first turncoat, but exposed a would-be purveyor of stolen goods as well!
We thus see that following the successful Reformation or 1999, the Rosicrucian Order of A+O came to complete the entire progression of the Three Order system similarly intended for the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Beginning at a symbolical level, then progressing through Rosicrucian alchemical and magical analogical operations, the system then attains the summit of the direct, solar operations and mysteries. Along the way, the initiate encounters ever more ancient egregores and systems, beginning with the Qabalistic and Enochian, then delving deeply into the Egyptian, before encountering the Chaldeaen and Sumerian. The overall system is protected with safeguards to prevent further profanation and remains firmly rooted in the Hermetic triad of disciplines; astrology, alchemy, and theurgy.