The Great Work, for the Probationer, is defined as "obtaining a scientific knowledge of the nature and powers of my own being."
"Probation" is defined as an experimental period, during which the individual is tested. The word comes from the Latin, probare , "to prove". In Liber 185 the Probationer is warned to "be aware that the word Probationer is not a term in vain, but that the Brethren will prove it in many subtle ways when he least expects it."
"After three months, the Student is examined ... and if his knowledge ... is considered satisfactory, he can become a Probationer " (Book Four). The Probationer (0 = 0) is received by an initiate who is at least one Neophyte (1 = 10).
The aspirant to A. · .A. ·. you should listen to the Lesson (Liber LXI) and this note of your function; IF HE WANTS, he must then get the robe of a Probationer; should choose with a deep premeditation and intense solemnity a motto. Upon admission he shall receive the robe, sign the form provided and repeat the oath as appointed, and receive the First Volume of the Book. ( Liber 185 ).
The Probationer's robe is a white Tau-shaped robe (without a hood), with gold accents along the bottom hem, the sleeves, and near the neckline. At the front is a scarlet staff. On the back is a hexagram, formed from a blue descending triangle interlaced with a red rising triangle, and with a golden Tau in the center.
Probationer. - Your main job is to start the practices you may prefer, and write a careful record of them for a year. ( One Star to the Sight ).
The essential purpose of the probationary degree is thus that the aspirant will explore a wide variety of instructional materials and, above all, find his own methods and work styles. Thus, any attempt to pre-specify tasks should be vague. The Probationer is given an extensive curriculum of study materials, consisting mainly of all Class B publications of the A∴A∴. "He may choose whatever practices he chooses, but in any case he must keep an accurate record so that he can discover cause and effect in his work, and so that A∴A∴ can judge his progress and direct his further studies ".
He is to memorize a chapter of Liber LXV ... ( Liber 185 )
Liber LXV is Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, "The Book of the Heart Girded with a Serpent."
In addition to all this, he should perform any tasks that A. · .A. ·. appropriate to entrust it. ( Liber 185 )
The probation lasts at least a year. After six months, certain Probationers are admitted to a special ceremony, Ritual XXVIII, Liber Septem Regnum Sanctorum .
He must remain chaste, and reverent toward his body, for the ordeal of initiation is not light. This is of peculiar importance in the last two months of your Probation. ( Liber 185 )
In Eight Lectures on Yoga , Aleister Crowley describes how the work of the early phases of A∴A∴ was developed:
The question for me is. . . describe a method of procedure which will be sufficiently elastic to be useful to every human being. I have tried to do this by combining the two paths of Magic and Yoga. If we carry out the preliminary practices, each according to its capacity, the result will surely be the acquisition of a certain technique. And it will become much easier as we go along, especially if we remember well not to try to discriminate between these two methods as if they were opposite schools, but rather to use one to help each other in an emergency ...
You are expected to spend at least three months [the Student's period] in the study of some of the classics on the subject. The main purpose of this is not to instruct you, but to familiarize you with solo work, and in particular to prevent you from having the idea that there is anything right or wrong about opinion. You go through an examination to be sure that your mind is well grounded in this matter, and you become a Probationer. Your readings will have given you some indication as to what kind of things you might be good at, and you choose such practices as they seem promising to you. You follow with them, and keep a careful record of what you do, and what results occur. After eleven months you send your registration to your superior; it is his duty to put you right where you are going wrong,
The basic instructions on "the two paths of Magic and Yoga" are, respectively, the documents in Class B Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae and Liber E vel Exercitiorum . These practical instructions are the foundation of the A∴A sistema Scientific Enlightenment system. GH∴ Frater OM emphasized its importance clearly in an editorial in Equinox Vol. I Nº 7:
I am authorized to say that no one will be admitted as a Neophyte unless his year of work [as a Probationer] yields considerable skill tests in the fundamental practices, Asana, Pranayama, Assumption of God-Forms, vibration of divine names, rituals of banishment, and invocation, and the practices set forth in Sections 5 and 6 of Liber O. Although he is not examined in any of these, elemental experience is necessary so that he can intelligently assist those who will be under him.
According to Liber 185, "any Probationer who has completed his task to the satisfaction of A. · .A. ·." will be prepared for the advance to Neophyte.
Probationary Degree lasts at least a year or so. The shortest date for advancement is "The next time the sun should enter the sign in which it was received" ( Liber 185 ). The Probationer is to deliver a copy of his Diary from this period to his Neophyte and then recite the chosen chapter of Liber LXV . This must occur one month before the end of the probationary period (ie, at least eleven months after admission).
The Probationer shall remain free of all other appointments for a whole week (which is the duration of Neophyte initiation).