William Emmet "Bill" Heidrick (left) and Jerry Edward Cornelius (right) smiling and standing with their arms around each other in Jerry's library
Brothers in Freedom: Bill Heidrick (Left) and Jerry Cornelius, Grady's Main A.'.A.'. Student (Right)

by Erica Johnson

On the Facebook page BillHeidrick.com, Felicia Heidrick (I believe) writes about Bill Heidrick (1943-2023), Grady Louis McMurtry (1918-1985), Jerry Cornelius (1951-2023), and the A.’.A.’. As Jerry tells it, the three men didn’t always see eye to eye, but they remained friends.

In any case, Felicia Heidrick relates that Bill used to say, “[The] A.’.A.’. [system] does not work”—can’t work! In her discussion, she introduces some helpful and interesting perspectives on the spiritual journey. Unfortunately, she also includes the unfair falsehood that “Grady was never involved in A.’.A.’.”.

I’ll start with the helpful comments. First, the author writes that, although Heidrick was willing to answer people’s questions about A.’.A.’. work, he refused all such trappings as grades, titles, signatures etc., as those would “encourage[e] … self-adulation”.

Bill Heidrick had a point. A hierarchical order always presents the danger of ego-based corruption. In the McMurtry A.’.A.’., we work within a hierarchical grade system. Historically, we’ve seen grade-based vanity first-hand. To minimize this danger, the teacher must cultivate humility and realize the impossibility of knowing anybody else’s will. And everyone must subordinate his or her own ambitions to the Universal Will.

Likewise, the author states that the true Teacher is within. I agree absolutely. Again, an A.’.A.’. mentor can never know the aspirant’s True Will. Apart from transmitting the spiritual current flowing to them from Above the Abyss, he or she can only provide encouragement and share theories, experiences, observations, concerns, suggestions, and so on. Yet, if both teacher and student engage in the process in a sacred way, the inner Teacher can manifest more easily for both of them. It is ritualized Love under Will.

The strength of the spiritual power of the mentor-mentee relationship is directly proportional to the purity of commitment on either side. To take on an A.’.A.’. student formally is a weighty commitment, similar to adopting a child. Generally speaking, it’s for life. This karmic connection can benefit both parties if worked with a pure spiritual intent. A wise student will take it just as seriously as the mentor does, but we cannot enforce that.

Ideally, the A.’.A.’. provides students, not just with mentors, but with a connection to the Divine realm. The spiritual boost is powerful when this process succeeds. Then again, membership in an Order is neither necessary nor sufficient for Initiation.

Felicia Heidrick also claims that, because the true Guru is within, there can be no lineages in any tradition. Although she makes an important point, she’s also missing something vital about the spiritual process. To make her point, she provides a link to the trailer of the documentary Kumaré, which is about a man who experimentally impersonates a guru. The prankster makes up spiritual “nonsense” and even tells his followers he is a fake, which they interpret as a deep spiritual mystery. Felicia Heidrick implies that, as in The Wizard of Oz, we have all the spiritual resources we need within ourselves. Again, I agree, up to a point.

A spiritual teacher ought to be a helper, but the aspirant should take responsibility for his or her own path. But that hardly implies that everyone can “do it yourself”. Yes, some people can guide themselves, or at least get a respectable distance on their own. Others benefit from more assistance. To make an analogy, some gifted children spontaneously teach themselves to draw and paint. Others benefit from an art teacher. But the fact that someone can successfully impersonate a children’s art teacher hardly implies that all art teachers are useless frauds.

Something even deeper is missed, turning Felicia Heidrick’s intended point here on its head. Spiritual power is gained, on the one hand, through spiritual service and, on the other hand, through submission to a higher power. In Kumaré, some of the guru’s faithful followers experienced real, positive change in their lives. Should we be surprised that people who were desperate to improve their lot got real help from a fake guru? No. Fools though they may have been, they were onto something.

The documentary unwittingly demonstrates that spiritual power will flow in some measure through anyone who positions themselves as a teacher in service to God—regardless of his or her beliefs on the matter. The more purely we commit to serving humanity in the Divine, the more responsibility we must shoulder. Concomitantly, the more responsibility we shoulder for all humanity’s sake, the more power we receive for the purpose. It’s a law: we always get what we need in order to carry out our task of selfless service.

The film simultaneously proves the power of faith. To succeed, any aspirant has to submit sooner or later to the Will of the Highest. For that purpose, he or she can employ a mentor as a matrix. Aleister Crowley remarks, “[T]he most powerful weapon in the hand of the student is the Vow of Holy Obedience.” Moreover, it does not matter if the Guru is real or not: “Any being capable of giving commands is an efficient Guru for the purpose of this Vow, provided that he is not too amiable and lazy.” Of course, it’s far, far better to choose a nice guy like Kumaré than someone who is out to exploit you: “The person should if possible be trustworthy; and let the Chela [disciple] remember that if he should be ordered to jump over a cliff it is very much better to do it than to give up the practice.” Look, I’m not recommending jumping off a cliff just because Aleister Crowley told you to. However, the aspirant has to concoct some way to stop selling their soul for temporal things—even their oh-so-temporary life. Somehow, we keep valuing the petty, fleeting aspects of ourselves and ignoring the priceless treasure within. Sometimes establishing a worshipful relationship with a trustworthy mentor can help.

The honest, intentional application of these two intertwined principles—Certainty and Faith—forms the whole premise of the A.’.A.’.  and of magick in general.

Regarding the false and unfair claim about Grady that I mentioned earlier, the author also says that he was “never involved in A.’.A.’.”. By that she seems to mean that although Grady went through the motions, he relied on Bill Heidrick to tell him what to do. Although I can’t evaluate the details of this unflattering portrayal, I can tell you this: according to Jerry’s diaries, Grady successfully mentored Jerry Cornelius in the A.’.A.’. over many years.

In our Order’s published works, available from a variety of reputable vendors, Jerry extensively documents how Grady mentored him, and he publishes some of Grady’s A.A. teachings. Receiving the latter allowed Jerry to elucidate and build upon Crowley’s magickal formula of ON.

I’m not asking anyone to accept Jerry’s writings as gospel, but anyone who takes the time to examine the evidence fairly must admit that Grady not only thought of himself as A.’.A.’. but somehow shined as Jerry’s mentor. It would have been nice if Felicia Heidrick had taken a more balanced, objective approach to the topic of A.’.A.’., thus giving Grady the credit he so richly deserves.