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Oliver St. John is the author of fifteen books covering Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, the Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of the Thelemic Magical Collegium, Ordo Astri, and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

New Light on Stele 666

Ankh-af-na-khonsu shall go forth in the light to do his true will for the living souls that dwell upon the earth.
The pharaoh Sety I and Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the priest and scribe of the Stele of Revealing, frequented the region of Upper Egypt extending from Thebes to Denderah and Abydos.[1] Ankh-af-na-khonsu was the opener of the doors of heaven at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes, while Sety I built his temple at Abydos.[2] The scribe and the pharaoh lived in the late dynastic period when priestly prophets of Egypt foresaw the ending of their world, during which time their secret knowledge would be lost and forgotten for millennia. Elsewhere, the biblical prophet Ezekiel was aflame with the vision of splendour, as well as visions that foretold of the doom and destruction of civilisations.[3] We have, perhaps, arrived at a comparable period in the history of human civilisation. That might account for the extraordinary visiting of the earth by souls of ancient Egyptian Initiates. 

The Bulaq Stele 666 of Ankk-af-na-khonsu

The latter statement will appear to some fanciful, at best, mistaken. That is a matter for each soul to determine. Understanding, however, requires a journey that will take us back to the last century as well as to vastly ancient times. We will reappraise certain portions of the knowledge veiled, though beautifully so, by the hieroglyphic declaration recorded on the Stele of Revealing, the funeral stone of a priest of the god Menthu who lived and died during the 25th and 26th dynasties of Egypt. The story begins with the modern day cults of Thelema, a form of Hermetic philosophy and theurgy introduced, albeit beneath a heavy veil, to the world at the dawn of the twentieth century.

The Aka Dua Mantram from Stele 666

The A KA DUA mantram is better known as the second verse from the “Song of the Stele”, which we use as an invocation of Menthu every time we perform the Mass of Hormaku. Menthu is the name of the ancient Egyptian god depicted on the front of the Stele of Revealing usually described as Ra-hoor-khuit, as mentioned in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis.[4] Menthu is a name of Set and a special name by which the Ankh-af-na-khonsu cult of Thebes knew Ra-hoor-khuit, the Neter of the sun’s heat at full strength. Herukhuti, Hrumachis, Hormaku (the Sphinx of Egypt) and Ra-hoor-khuit are simply different spellings of the same name. The ancient Egyptian mode of analogous thinking can appear highly complex to the modern mind, accustomed as it is to so-called concrete facts and linear strategies. All this will become clearer if we consider the enthroned god and adoring priest that are shown beneath the nocturnal sky of Nuit and the winged sun disk Hadit (or Behedet to Egyptologists).

The Priestly Adoration of Menthu on Stele 666

Menthu may be understood as a unified form of Horus and Set. The form of Menthu depicted on the Stele of Revealing combines the attributes of several Egyptian gods, as was customary with the Neteru associated with important cult centres such as Thebes.[5] Thebes is derived from the Greek name for the place known to the Egyptians as Waset (or Uaset). It means “Place of the Sceptre”, and the was, which we call “sceptre”, is identical to the name and image of the god Set. Indeed, the was sceptres carried by all high-ranking priests were crowned by the likeness of the god Set. The was sceptre was typically the length of the human spine and terminated in a two-pronged fork at the base, the symbol of dual manifestation. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn confused the matter somewhat by referring to the was image as a “phoenix wand”.[6] The wand’s function, though, is accurate: Creation of Life through the Initiation of Fire.[7]

Horakhty, Herukhuti or Hrumachis are summed up in Hormaku, the “God of the two horizons”, or “Horus in the sky”. The Sphinx of Egypt is the God of the Horizon (Hormaku) as she points towards the place where the sun rises at the equinox or first point of Aries.[8] Thus, by precession of the equinoxes the Sphinx now points towards the cusp of Aquarius or Nuit, the Star XVII of the Tarot trumps.[9] From this we can understand how the so-called ‘future aeon’ referred to in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 57 as Hrumachis is not in the future but is here and now and for all eternity. 

The Words and Spells of Stele 666

The translation from the obverse of the Stele of Revealing that we use in our Mass of Hormaku is that given by Aleister Crowley in various publications. In 1904, Crowley employed the services of an Egyptologist to get the Stele translated then applied his poetic skills to render this in a manner that conveyed his magical ideas and understanding. We use it because it scans well and is very easy to memorise for ritual use (it rhymes!). Crowley’s poeticising of the Stele is not wrong, and we shall continue to use his verses. However, when the hieroglyphics are looked into closely, further depths of meaning may be plumbed.

Aleister Crowley’s mantram begins, “Unity uttermost showed, I adore the might of thy breath”. The ancient Egyptians were not overly concerned with theological ‘unity’, for the gods are polymorphous and in nature all manifestation is dual. When manifestation is withdrawn it is understood as the circle of Nuit, or All, which in Thelema is traditionally formularised as 0 = 2. Something is certainly being “showed” or revealed, and while it is not wrong to assume the Qabalistic Kether, the Crown (the god wears a solar crown), the Egyptian Akh conveys a subtler depth and range of meaning.[10] The “might of thy breath” is a translation of tuf ur biu, which includes the plural of “souls” or “spirits”. It is easy to follow Crowley’s line of thought, for in the Qabalah, breath, mind and spirit are interchangeable terms summed up as Ruach. Yet the Egyptian sense is of many souls or spirits.

To provide a translation of the mantram that may be closer to the ancient Thelemic cult of Thebes, and to further understanding, we need to know something about the various parts of the soul in the ancient Egyptian language. One valuable source is E.A. Wallis Budge’s introduction to his special 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead.[11] A further source, less well known but an astounding narrative in its own right, is Omm Sety’s Egypt by Hanny el Zeini and Catherine Dees (St. Lynne’s Press). We also dealt with the functions of the Egyptian parts of the soul in “Initiation”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.[12] If we combine these resources, the Thelema as it was known to the Egyptian priest-scribes of Thebes becomes clearer. It is only necessary here to summarise the key parts of the soul as described by Budge in his introduction to The Book of the Dead. We shall extend this with notes based on magical research and some suggested Qabalistic correspondences.

1. Khat—the physical body or ‘shell’; the corruptible and perishable: Malkuth.
2. Ka—the double, an abstract form of the person that especially signifies the vital energy and that normally dwells in the body or tomb, though under some circumstances can wander about at will: Yesod.
3. Ba—the heart-soul, often depicted as a bird with a human face, most often dwells with the Ka and is able to assume a material or non-material form at will: Paroketh.
4. Ab—the heart or soul not the physical organ; it is also associated with intelligence (of the heart), especially intuition and analogous thinking: Tiphereth.
5. Khaibet—the “shadow”; like the Ka it may be nourished by offerings and can have an existence apart from the physical body: Malkuth and Yesod.
6. Khu—the spiritual soul, often depicted in the form of an Ibis and sometimes interchangeable with the notion of “a spirit”; as a “Soul which under no circumstances could die” (Budge) the Khu is cognate with the Judaeo Christian term, “Holy Guardian Angel”, which the Greeks termed Augoeides or “shining one”: Binah and Neschemah.
7. Sekhem—“power”, also vitality, though not that of the earthly Ka as the Sekhem dwells in heaven with the Khus; the name of the Egyptian lion goddess Sekhet (or Sekhmet) is the feminine noun: Chokmah.
8. Ren—the “name”, which has spiritual and magical import for it is linked to the soul or spirit: Tiphereth.
9. Sahu—a spiritual body that springs forth from the material body and forms a habitation for the soul: Malkuth and Tiphereth.

The Khabs or “star” of Da’ath is not listed by Budge but is nonetheless vital to our understanding of Thelema and of magical Initiation. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8–9 it is declared:
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!
Budge did not there describe the Akh (Malkuth and Kether). The Akh is named on the reverse side of the Stele of Revealing and forms the first syllable of our mantram. In Omm Sety’s Egypt, the functions of the Akh are described in detail. In Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (Vol 1 pp.135) there are many meanings and functions for the noun and verb and, perhaps not surprisingly, they agree with those given by Sety. Principally, the sense of Akh is “to soar, fly through the air (as a bird)”. It also has the meaning of “reaching out”, which is of course the gesture made by the priest and scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu on the Stele of Revealing. Other spellings convey “fire, shining, radiance, spirit.” According to Sety, the key spiritual and magical function of the Akh is to unite the Ka, Ba and Khu so the Ka is then able to freely travel to any world, at will.

On the third and lower portion of the Stele of Revealing the funerary oration of the priest and scribe of the Theban cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he is the son of Bes-na-mut, a priest with the same titles, and his mother Tanech, a musician for Amen-Ra. On the reverse of the Stele it is stated that his soul has passed through the gate of the west or western peak, known by the Egyptians as the passage to Amentet the land of the dead. Thus he may travel the worlds at will and even visit the earth. His name is after all that of the moon god or “Sky-Rider”, Khonsu. In standing before the sceptre-bearing Ra-Menthu as shown on the obverse of the Stele, the priestly prophet is as the moon shining forth with the sun’s reflected radiance. On the reverse side of the Stele, Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he has joined his self to the earth even in death.
Do not speak against me in the presence of the Great Lord of the West: Although I have joined myself to the earth through the western gate of the sky may I endure upon the earth … Ankh-af-na-khonsu shall go forth in the light to do his true will for the living souls that dwell upon the earth.[13]
In Omm Sety’s Egypt, Sety also tells how upon death (in Thebes) he passed through the gate of the west.
During life the ba, akh and ka dwell always in the khat (physical body). As you well know, the akh may be freed by one who knows magic, and it can travel to distant places or even to Amenti. There are a few learned magicians who can also set the ka free during life, but this is not a good thing to do. If the ba leaves the khat, the khat will immediately die. After death, the ba, akh and ka are reunited in Amenti, but the ka may prefer to return and visit the earth. It is free to come and go at will, and this makes no difference to the reunited ba and akh, which have become as they were on earth. In Amenti there is no sickness or physical pain. But how terrible can be the pain of the heart. … I was at Thebes when I left this world, and I passed by way of Peak-of-the-West.
The Akh may be used to travel about but it cannot do anything with physical matter because it is not of the (physical) body. Sety has explained how certain priests with knowledge of such things, having power of their Akh, may have planned to revisit the earth even in future times. In this way the pharaoh Sety I was able to visit Dorothy Eady (Omm Sety), and the Theban gods of the Stele of Revealing were able to appear to Rose Crowley in Cairo, 1904. It is difficult to overlook the curious fact that the Egyptologist Dorothy Eady was not only born in 1904 but was also mentored as a young girl by E. A. Wallis Budge.

The tale of Dorothy Eady is no less improbable to the material scientist or rational thinker than is the reception of the Book of the Law in Cairo—in spite of Aleister Crowley’s efforts to make his account of it seem plausible. It seems, however, that the account of Dorothy Eady is so detailed and accurate factually that even modern-day Egyptologists will not attempt to debunk it.

The Bulaq Stele, Obverse Lower Panel

In gathering all this knowledge together it is possible to create a new translation of the mantram of the Stele of Revealing beginning Akh Dua—which is a slightly corrected (or modified) transliteration into English. As follows:—
O how I have longed for thee to appear
In the splendour of thy shining rays.
Thou has set the wizened path
Before thy blessed souls—secret are the ways!
O thou, warrior at the gates of heaven,
To thee, to thee I give praise!

We have striven here to find words that at least bear a semblance of the nuanced poetry conveyed by the hieroglyphs. The Egyptian language was such that the layers of possible meaning are practically infinite. To provide a few examples: There is frequent repetition of a phrase for particular emphasis. There are puns—for the play-on-words was much loved by the ancient Egyptians. There are etymological cross-references to actual earth locations known to the Initiate and traveller. Tuf ur biu suggests, among other things, an ancient nome centre that housed a subterranean labyrinth, in the centre of which was a secret shrine to Horus. It must be added that neither this translation nor that of Aleister Crowley or any Egyptologist should be taken as authoritative. A kind of Qabalah, not based on numbers but more akin to etymology, and which requires analogous thinking to decipher, is embedded in all such texts. Each word has many levels of meaning in itself and there are countless ways in which a name or word can be spelled in hieroglyphics. The understanding of that which is written and carved in stone differs for each person that can read it as according to their knowledge. Thus the magical secrets of the ancient Egyptians are everywhere written plainly, yet the knowledge is “written and concealed” (Liber AL vel Legis, III: 75).

Likewise with this New Light on Stele 666. It is written for all. To most it means nothing and they will turn aside. Some will read it but will soon forget. A few souls will understand and hasten to the necessary preparations. 

[1] Thus the House of Life (Denderah or Iunet), the House of Death (Abydos or Abdu) and the House of Ordinance (Thebes or Waset).
[2] It was one of the priestly official duties of Ankh-af-na-khonsu to literally open the doors that led out on to the roof of the Temple of Karnak, and so to the sky. At certain times of the year, for example the heliacal rising of Sirius, the Egyptians would carry an ornate shrine housing a god on a lengthy procession that culminated on the roof of a temple. The shrine would then be placed so the god could observe the sun rising.
[3] The Vision of Splendour is, by Qabalistic correspondence, the magical power of the 8th path of Hod on the Hermetic Tree of Life. The vision of Ezekiel is recorded in the book of Ezekiel, 1–26.
[4] The Stele of Revealing was item number “666” in the Bulaq Museum of Cairo in 1904 e.v.
[5] The Ankh-af-na-khonsu cultist at the centre-right of the Stele of Revealing was a priest and oracular sage of the god Menthu or Set. The enthroned god depicted at the centre-left is Menthu embodying the attributes of Ra, Horus, Set and Nekhebit or Khut-i (the serpent).
[6] The image of the phoenix, which is a Greek word for that which the Egyptians knew as bennu or “soul of Aunnu”, is a bird (heron?), as distinct from the was sceptre, which is clearly fashioned in the likeness of the peculiar bestial head of Set.
[7] Creation of Life through the Initiation of Fire is the function of the phoenix wand (was sceptre), the magical weapon corresponding to the 19th path of Leo the Lion on the Tree of Life. See Aleister Crowley, 777, notes to column XLI lines 12 and 19.
[8] The Sun enters the zodiacal sign of Aries around the 21st March in the northern hemisphere of the globe. The (twelve) zodiacal signs must not be confused with the constellations by which they are named. See Hermetic Astrology (Ordo Astri).
[9] The stars that appear in Tarot trump The Star XVII have been variously described as the Pleiades, Venus and others, including Sirius. Nearly all Tarot sets show a naked goddess pouring water from a vase, which is the magical image of Aquarius, the Waters of Space. In Egypt, the annual inundation of the Nile was figured by the same image and identified with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the star of Set-Isis. Hence Kenneth Grant in his letters and writings referred to Set (or Saturn) as the “power behind Venus”.
[10] The opening of the verse, Akh, is usually transliterated A KA in reference to the Stele. This method of transliteration renders the words in a way that is easier for the English tongue to manage but obscures much of the hieroglyphic sound and meaning. The “kh” is identical to a Hebrew cheth or Greek chi, while the “a” is similar in sound to the Hebrew ayin (A’a).
[11] The 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead was republished in unabridged form by Arkana in 1985. Study of Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (Vols One and Two) is also highly recommended for the expansion of knowledge and development of intuition. In the latter volumes Budge covertly reveals the non-numerical Qabalah of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
[13] Our translation of the reverse of the Stele of Revealing differs only slightly from the 1904 Egyptological translation. The word for “will or desire” (merrt-f) is also the verb “to love”. The word is therefore identical to Thelema (93) equal to Agape (93). Love is the law, love under will. See Budge, Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary Vol II (pp. 309–10). 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Total Eclipse: Wedding of the Beast and his Bride

Our readers in the USA will be particularly aware of the forthcoming total eclipse of the sun in the last degrees of Leo the Lion on 21st August. The totality will be visible across much of North America.

Thoth Tarot Atu Lust XI: Wedding of the Beast and his Bride

With us (i.e., Thelemites), the significance of the total occultation of the sun on 21st August 2017 rests on the fact that the longitudinal position coincides with that of the star Regulus, primary symbol of the Aeon of Hrumachis (Hormaku). Initiates may thus focus their efforts towards liberation from the poisonous aeons of humanity. In so doing, we prepare the earth for her appointed destiny with the company of heaven or Nuit.

The fixed star Regulus is one of the four ancient “Watchers of the Skies” that mark the corners of the visible universe. Regulus is otherwise known as Cor Leonis, “heart of the lion”. The Great Symbol or universal mandala of the Order of the Star is aligned with the Aeonic Mutable Cross now formed by Regulus. Over the years we have worked and developed our Thelemic system of ritual magick and yoga so that it aligns more perfectly with the cosmic forces of the present time. The Aeonic Mutable Cross, or Hrumachis as it is obliquely referenced in the Egyptian Book of the Law, was formed by the end of 2012 when the position of Regulus moved out of Leo and into the sign of Virgo. Exactly three years later, at the Capricorn solstice of 2015, Boleskine House burned to the ground, fulfilling the prophecy declared in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, III: 34. We posted the article Prophecy of Liber AL Fulfilled on the Star and Snake Blogspot shortly after those events.

A succinct explanation of what all this may signify in terms of magick and yoga is given in The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga, “Rectification, Fixing the Volatile” (pp.131–133).[1] The alchemical rectification or fixing of the volatile was known and operated by ancient Egyptian priest-kings in the ceremony called the Opening the Mouth (of the Lion). The Mutable Cross opens a passage into hyperspace, thus affording the transmutation of the dual kundalini energy (Aub) into the starlight of Nuit (Aud). In ancient Egyptian terms, it is the forming of the magical body called the Khu, which houses the immortal Khabs star. As it is put in the Egyptian Book of the Law, I: 8:

The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.[2]

Every Neophyte works to develop their own understanding of the mysterious role played by the tetrahedronal pyramid in Initiation. The tetrahedron, symbol of the Diamond Soul, is adumbrated by the Probationer as they near the end of their course. The Neophyte then realises this more fully at their Initiation known as the Phoenix.[3] The interplay of the triangle and the square, the ternary and quadruplicity (“Hormaku”), overshadows the whole course of Initiation that is possible to humanity in its final wave of manifestation.

According to “Starlight Gateway”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga:

The three-dimensional tetrahedron representing the Khabs in time and space thus opens and ‘dissolves’. It then passes out of time and space into the infinite field of space (zero) and consciousness (none). The tetrahedron then opens up as the Sri Yantra, the Eye in the Triangle or Hawk’s Eye in the Silver Star, as declared in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 44:

Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.

The flame of Hadit now burns with the Khabs star dwelling in the celestial Khu, so the Khabs passes out of the three dimensional universe of time and space.

The Trident of Neptune

An ominous portent of another kind appears the following day, August 22nd 2017, as the Sun enters Virgo. A strange configuration appears, which we can best describe as the Trident of Neptune. We created a simple graphic here to illustrate this. 

"Neptune Trident" Zodiacal Configuration for Sun entering Virgo August 22nd, 2017

The main branch of the Trident is formed by Neptune opposing Mercury and the Moon. The arms of the Trident are formed by Venus and Jupiter in square aspect. The upper points to the left and right of Neptune are formed by Uranus and Pluto, squaring Venus and Jupiter respectively.

Qabalistically, the supernal triad is represented above by Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. Below, symbolic of the terrestrial plane, we have Mercury (in retrograde cycle) and the Moon covering 8–15 degrees Virgo. The beneficent planets Jupiter and Venus here mediate between heaven and earth, the non-material and material worlds that compose the Thelemic two and naught (0=2 equation). As it is put in the Egyptian Book of the Law, I: 28:

None breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two.

Traditionally, members of the Order gather (whether physically or astrally) each month to celebrate the entry of the Sun into a new sign of the Zodiac. This entry of the Sun into Virgo, coinciding with the Trident of Neptune, is no exception. Members in the United Kingdom will be performing the rite of Nuit and Ra for Virgo at around 6pm GMT or Universal Time on the evening of Tuesday the 22nd August.[4] This ritual is a celebration of the ancient Egyptian mysteries of Isis. When Horus, the ‘Aeon’ or magical child, is poisoned by the weight of all the evils of humanity, Isis and Nephthys (the dual Aub wave) call for the sunboat of Ra to be stopped in its tracks (a total eclipse; shivadarshana).

Thus time stands still. In the silent chasm between the worlds that has opened up (rending of the veil), Isis is able to receive a communication from Tahuti or Thoth-Hermes. She has thus made herself receptive to the Knowledge and Conversation of her Holy Guardian Angel. With the magical spell given her by Tahuti during the cessation of time, Isis is able to neutralise the poison and raise Horus from the dead.

There is a fascinating twist to this tale, in that the poisoners take the form of seven scorpions sacred to Hathoor (the Eye of Ra). When Isis compels them to be obedient (to the Great Work), they “turn down their heads” and so the destructive forces that previously overwhelmed the chakras of life, love and liberty are banished and nature is renewed or restored.

Eclipse Transits to the Natal Horoscope

The August 2017 total eclipse phenomenon will not be visibly perceptible to observers in the UK, though its shadow falls across much of North America. The stars and planets form the same degrees of celestial longitude wherever we happen to be on the earth. Eclipse horoscopes around the world differ only in the matter of the house positions, not the signs or aspects between the planets and luminaries. The sun will be low in the west, in the 7th astrological house in the UK. North America is five hours behind us by the clock, so it will be the middle of the afternoon there.

The house position becomes important if we want to juxtapose the eclipse chart against our birth horoscope. For example, if the eclipse point transits the 7th house in your chart, then expect the power of the eclipse to be experienced through other people, especially those you live with or have a one-to-one relationship with. The house cusps are very sensitive to such transits. If your Ascendant happens to fall between 28 and 30 degrees Leo then the power of the eclipse might be measured in personal terms. It would be as though a ‘karmic shadow’ moved across the whole sphere of life and influence. One might experience déjà vu very intensely and on a daily basis for several weeks, for example. It is worth noting here that while it is natural we should look to the precise moment when such an eclipse achieves totality, in astrological and psychic terms the immediate—quite often disruptive—effects stretch for a lunation at least (i.e., one lunar month). However, a major eclipse like this one can mark events of an entire lifetime. In collective terms, it can mark the dramatic culmination (and initiation) of long lasting social and political changes.


[1] The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga (Ordo Astri 2015). View book here.
[2] This secret doctrine of the Khabs and Khu is fully revealed in “Initiation of the Ka”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [ibid].
[3] The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation (Ordo Astri 2017). View book here.
[4] “The Ceremonies of Nuit and Ra”, Volume VI Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (Ordo Astri 2017). View the book here.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Thelemic Mysticism: Will to a Great Work

The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 2, professes:

The unveiling of the company of heaven.

Operations of magick or theurgy do not begin or end with a word or an oath; they begin and end with silence. We behold the sun and the stars in a light no less than that of divine revelation; yet what we perceive is not that; it is rather the product of a certain kind of congress between the absolute and ourselves. In the words of the Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, beyond the fixed stars is the “Sky without Stars”. Put Qabalistically, the void or limitless space called Ain Soph forms points of junction between planetary bodies and the viewer; the sensible universe is thus enclosed between the Eye of the Eternal and the eye of the seer. The source, or void spirit, is defined as an absence of light. In the undifferentiated void are nodal points or space marks that form a nexus outside of space and time. The universe is a matrix providing body or form for lines of light unique to the position of the individual yet composed of an undifferentiated source.

None, breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two. For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 28—29

In Thelemic cosmology we do not posit the absolute in terms of ‘one’, but in terms of zero, the void, and two, the power of dual manifestation by which the universe appears.

Zeus Battling Typhon, William Blake

Thelemic Mysticism: Zeus Battling Typhon, by William Blake

Thelema: Division Hither Homeward

This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 30

On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the first emanation is Kether the Crown, the ‘one’. This unity may be understood as a cloak or veil of concealment—at best a ‘concentration’—of the triple void named Ain Soph Aur.

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known.

Liber AL vel Legis, III: 2

The first emanation after the hypothetical unity of Kether the Crown is Chokmah. Chokmah means “Wisdom”, which the Greeks call Sophia. And yet Chokmah expresses the primal duality. Chokmah declares, “Two!” and not “One”. Chokmah is therefore paired with Binah, “Understanding”. Together these are the root of force and form, the means of dual manifestation. Mystic unity, often misconstrued as oneness of being, is not a goal but is the yogic means to make the inner Seeing Eye ‘single’.

Before going further we need to make clear what we mean by use of the term “yoga”. We are not here discussing physical exercises designed to relax the mind and make the body more supple and efficient. That is by far the most popular kind of yoga today, since the aim is entirely material, physical, and is about the attainment of that elusive phantom of our deeply troubled times, “wellbeing”. The spiritual and magical yoga or (literally) “joining together” we wish to discuss here is an integral part of the Occult Science, by which Reality may be known.

In the Western Hermetic tradition, ritual magick and yoga are combined yet the goal is no different than that expressed by Patanjali in his Eight Limbs of Yoga. Defined as Samadhi or “Union with the Lord (or God)”, we first fuse together subject and object through yogic concentration and stillness (of mind and body). Division is essentially creative. Division and separation expresses begetting, multiplication, the discernment of one thing from another. BRA, which has the meaning, “created; to carve out; to separate or select”, is the root of the first word in the book of Genesis, “In the beginning” (BRAShITh).[1]

In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and the darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1: 1–4

The opening of the book of Genesis describes the actions of the Logos, the mind, will and word of the divine absolute, attributed Qabalistically to Chokmah. The bible therefore begins not with ‘one’, but with ‘two’. The uniting of subject and object is to return to the source, that which cannot be defined and is expressed only as a “great mystery” in the language of the sages of old time. Yoga is not about evolution—though we could be forgiven for thinking that if we have spent much time studying occultists of the twentieth century. Our modern sages were as much influenced by Darwin as they were influenced by 19th century notions of ‘progress’. Yoga is about involution, the return to the source of all.

Thelema and Praxis: a Great Work

There must always be division in the self when it comes to the practice of magick and yoga, and until the True Will (Thelema) is known, the personal will is constantly at odds. Even then—as we shall see—illumination is not the end of the struggle, the spiritual battle. Magick and yoga, if pursued to the end, will ultimately depose a terrible tyrant, which we call the human ego, and put in its place the true King and guide of the soul, which we call the Holy Guardian Angel. The mind-body complex will use every trick in the book—including one or two no one has even heard of—to dissuade us from taking up the practice of magick and yoga.

1. The body says, “We can do this tomorrow, for now I am very comfortable as I am and I want to enjoy this comfort now so that I know that I am alive and well and living this life. These grave matters of spirit, this arduous work—extra work at that!—can wait”.

2. On the other side of the coin, the body says, “I am uncomfortable. Something is not right and I need to know what it is. I will be better equipped tomorrow. Things will be different then. For now, I am uneasy with this. We can do this tomorrow, when I am sure of myself.”

When the will is divided there is no single purpose and no single eye that can look into eternity. To the divided will, the divided self, matter reigns supreme, is completely invincible. And yet this restless condition of mind, this unease with things, is the necessary prerequisite to any Great Work. It is the question that opens the quest for the Graal in the Arthurian legends: “What ails thee, o king?” At the same time, the condition is seized upon by the body and ego as persuasive proof that any Great Work is mistaken and should be either abandoned or postponed until conditions arrive that are more perfectly suitable. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the Western magical path, which is naturally more materially focussed than the Eastern, to make this the most common trick that hapless practitioners can play upon themselves.

Thelema and Satan

The Christian mystics made quite a lot of fuss about the fleshly opposition, likening this to a constant struggle with Satan. This does not sit well with the majority of today’s magical practitioners. Aleister Crowley, often falsely accused of ‘Satanism’, insisted that we should best understand Satan as the principle of Initiation through trial and ordeal—a very Christian idea if we consider its source is in the account of Matthew 4: 1–11. Even natural mystics such as Jacob Boehme asserted that it is the struggle that is the very thing needed! Without that, there is no Great Work. We are human; we are imperfect. The greatest of saints were great not because it was easy for them, but because they encountered—and overcame—everything that hell had to throw at them. Unfortunately, our rationality is no ally in the Great Work, but is definitely on the side of Satan—that is, the materialistic Opposer to any Great Work. According to the Egyptian Book of the Law:

If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.
If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.

Liber AL vel Legis, II: 30–31

Thelema vs. Humanistic Psychology

Mystery is regarded with utmost contempt by the modern materialist thinker, who wants everything explained in rational terms. To the psychological reductionist, all mysteries are anathema and are to be regarded with suspicion. Humanistic psychology boils everything down to the question posed in couch therapy: “How are we feeling today?” The aim is to feel good about oneself. Feeling good in the face of the tragedy of the world requires some dishonesty to accomplish. The needs of the human ego are paramount in such personal diagnostics. On the other hand, a magical and spiritual practice, far from massaging the ego, will tend—at least at first—to be a source of pain and discomfort to mind and body.

Modern philosophical writing and thinking, depending as it does entirely on the appeal to rationality and intellect, reduces any Great Work to mere self-affirmation. Worse, humanistic psychology declares that the self can empower the self, that the self can convey to its own, as though a ‘one’ could give to a ‘one’—the ultimate delusion of the human ego. The language of humanistic psychology—which is now the common currency of the academic philosophical establishment—affirms the woeful solipsistic mantram that there is nothing beyond the self, that there is no truth beyond the self, and that truth is only what you make of it personally. Humanistic psychological thinking can be summed up in one short sentence: The self, the whole self, and nothing but the self! It is what René Guenon described as the force of anti-Initiation in his Crisis of the Modern Age. Here is the hypnotic refutation of Initiation, the Great Work in all ancient traditions.[2]

The Gilded Cage, Evelyn De Morgan

Psychological Reductionism: The Gilded Cage by Evelyn De Morgan

Thelema and Mysticism

Jacob Boehme, on the other hand, clearly understood that the divine will or Thelema is not a personal will or desire. Jacob Boehme was born in Görlitz in 1575, and began life as a shepherd, eventually becoming a master shoemaker. His work was suppressed for a time, and he was fortunate not to have been tried and found guilty of heresy. Having nothing with the desire to attain greater happiness, comfort or any sense of wellbeing to placate the ego, Boehme’s expressed concern was to know God—which is exactly the desire as expressed in the Eastern tradition by the Sage Ramakrishna and his discipline Vivekananda, for example. In Confessions, Boehme writes:[3]

I besought the Lord earnestly for his Holy Spirit and his grace, that he would please to bless and guide me in him, and take that away from me which turned me from him. I resigned myself wholly to him, that I might not live to my own will, but his …

Thelema is the Greek word used many times in the New Testament to describe the divine will, expressly not the personal will or desire of the ego.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.

Book of John 6: 38

The Christian term “grace” is as much a technical term as darshana, and should never be confused with favour.[4] The Thelemite will in all probability eschew the Christian Saviour—if the Light of the World is placed in such terms—while readily accepting that the Holy Guardian Angel must be the sole guide, “King, Ruler and Helper” as it is put in the Graeco-Egyptian Bornless Ritual.

This is the Lord of the Gods: This is the Lord of the Universe: This is He whom the winds fear: This is He, who having made voice by His commandment is Lord of all things: King, Ruler and Helper.

What if we should persist with the practice, resisting all contrivances of mind and body to pull us from the path? Perhaps nothing! Or perhaps what is called in terms of Christian mysticism grace and in Eastern mysticism, darshana, literally, “a glimpse”. Boehme, in the simple but beautiful language of his Confessions, describes a direct experience that completely transcends all previous knowledge:

In this … the Gate was opened to me, that in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years together at an University …

Here, Boehme directly perceived something of the “great mystery”, and received a “thorough view of the Universe, as a complex moving fulness wherein all things are couched and wrapped up”. This was at first impossible for him to explain or set down in writing:

Yet it opened itself in me, from time to time, as in a young plant. It was with me for the space of twelve years, and was as it were breeding. I found a powerful instigation within me before I could bring it forth into external form of writing; but whatever I could apprehend with the external principle of my mind that I wrote down.

Far from being a state of finality or “attainment”, Boehme insists that such glimpses are no more than encouragement, and that the struggle goes on:

Afterwards, however, the Sun shone upon me a good while, but not constantly, for sometimes the Sun hid itself, and then I knew not nor well understood my own labour. Man must confess that his knowledge is not his own but from God, who manifests the Ideas of Wisdom to the soul, in what measure he pleases …

Boehme insists that in writing down his experiences in case this might help some other on the path, his hand is guided by a spirit that is utterly beyond his self:

Neither is this my natural will, that I can do it by my own small ability; for if the Spirit were withdrawn from me, then I could neither know nor understand my own writings.

Nonetheless, in the prayer of Boehme that closes the first chapter of Confessions, there is clearly an intimacy with the Serpent Power, the action of Kundalini Shakti as termed in the Eastern Tantras:

O immense Greatness! I cannot compare thee with any thing, but only with the resurrection from the dead; there will the Love-Fire rise up again in us, and rekindle again our astringent, bitter, and cold, dark and dead powers, and embrace us most courteously and friendly. O gracious, amiable, blessed Love and clear bright Light, tarry with us, I pray thee, for the evening is at hand.

Curiously, this echoes the words of the English mystic Thomas De Quincey on the approach of nightfall in his own Confessions:

A sudden step upon the stairs broke up my dream, and recalled me to myself. Dangerous hours were now drawing near, and I prepared for a hasty farewell.

Materialism insists on productivity, and this is easily translated even to the most sincere motivation to begin a spiritual path, so the will is subverted to the vain quest for mere self-affirmation. Goethe produced his writing, his poetry; Blake produced his etchings, his wonders of colour and form. Aleister Crowley produced, with the aid of his wife Rose and at least one discarnate spirit, his Egyptian Book of the Law, the Thelemic ‘holy book’. Kenneth Grant produced, at length, his Wisdom of S’lba. It is easy to imagine we must all produce our own ‘holy book’, our masterpiece of art or literature—some tangible material evidence that we have been where we have been, that we have seen what we have seen.

Indeed, it is wonderful to produce works of art, or even of mysticism, but if we fall into the materialistic trap of seeking self-identification and self-validation in all things, we close the Abyss as the limit placed above our own heads and hearts.

Materialism insists on a result as final, as ‘product’. At the end of the line is the product itself, and the consumer that purchases it through the need to self-identify (thus the ‘brand’ is all-important). Aleister Crowley, in his instructional works, spoke perhaps rather too frequently of “attainment”—as if there is truly something to attain and someone to attain it. Sages of old times were more pragmatic than has often been afforded them by those that wish to make saints of men and women. The second chapter of Jacob Boehme’s The Confessions gets straight to the business of daily strife. It is not his aim to confess worldly ‘sins’ as such—thus inviting prurience—but rather to confess that a Great Work is as much a daily struggle for him as it is for anyone else. The fifteen minutes of being born aloft on wings of grace may well be followed by twelve years arduous work.

I am a sinful and mortal man, as well as thou, and I must every day and hour grapple, struggle, and fight with the Devil who afflicts me in my corrupted lost nature, in the wrathful power which is in my flesh, as in all men continually. Suddenly I get the better of him, suddenly he is too hard for me; yet, notwithstanding, he has not overcome or conquered me, though he often gets the advantage over me. If he buffets me, then I must retire and give back, but the divine power helps me again; then he also receives a blow, and often loses the day in the fight. But when he is overcome, then the heavenly gate opens in my spirit, and then the spirit sees the divine and heavenly Being, not externally beyond the body, but in the well-spring of the heart. There rises up a flash of the Light in the sensibility or thoughts of the brain, and therein the Spirit does contemplate.

Boehme makes clear that such illumination is purely internal, “not externally beyond the body”, yet it arises within, not of the self yet apprehended by the self. This “Devil”, as with “Satan” mentioned earlier as the Opposer to all Great Works, is no more and no less than the ordinary human nature and personal will, which we conveniently wrap in the psychoanalytic term “ego”, the Latin word for “I”. It is certainly possible to know a truth that transcends the self, that is no merely rational self-identifying assertion. It is even possible to be informed by such a truth or light while immersed in the darkness of mind and body that it is our lot to dwell in:

Though an angel from heaven should tell this to me, yet for all that I could not believe it, much less lay hold on it; for I should always doubt whether it was certainly so or no. But the Sun itself arises in my spirit, and therefore I am most sure of it.

The Egyptian Book of the Law, in its three chapters and 220 verses, makes it starkly clear that human rationality—termed as the “dogs of reason”—is doomed, and is the arch means of self-dooming.

Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise.
Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog!

Liber AL vel Legis, II: 32—33

Yet the “great mystery” is declared as fully knowable—this is in direct contradiction to humanistic and materialist thinking, which is founded on the impossible and self-defeating premise of the agnostic, the egotistical negation of the atheist. Nuit, the Egyptian Star Goddess of Thelemic cosmology, is clearly a friend of Jacob Boehme when she declares, in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 58:

I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

Such “certainty”, such a Sun arising in the spirit, as it was put by Boehme, must not be thought of as an end, a product, a finality. How many have abandoned the path, thinking that their daily struggle only proved their unworthiness, their lack of success or, alternatively, that the Great Work itself is a lie, a fraud, a bad joke played upon suffering humanity?

How many have sought comfort, reassurance, even self-validation—the false graal loved by the forces of anti-Initiation—in a spiritual or magical path? These are the first to give it up in horror when confronted with what may seem an unequal measure of pain, discomfort, doubt and self-negation. While none of these spring from the eternal, the so-called ‘negative’ qualities so feared by the materialist are nonetheless grist to the mill of Initiation:

Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not.

Liber AL vel Legis, II: 46—47

Woe, sorrow and failure are as clouds masking the infinite radiance of eternity. The nature of a Great Work—and the will to a Great Work—is to be able to proclaim, as did Jacob Boehme, that no matter how powerful the human ego is to subvert our purpose, we have not wholly been overcome or conquered. We have not given in, or given up. We must understand that the “fight of the spirit” is “sometimes down and sometimes uppermost”. In the words of Boehme:

The soul liveth in great danger in this world; and therefore this life is very well called the valley of misery, full of anguish, a perpetual hurly-burly, pulling and hauling, warring, fighting, struggling and striving. But the cold and half-dead body does not always understand this fight of the soul. The body does not know how it is with it, but is heavy and anxious; it goes from one business to another, and from one place to another; it seeketh for ease and rest. And when it comes where it would be, yet it finds no such thing as that which it seeks. Then doubtings and unbelief come upon it; sometimes it seems to it as if God had quite cast it off. It doth not understand the fight of the spirit, how the same is sometimes down and sometimes uppermost.

Also, lest we cling to vain notions of saints in white robes and the human sanctification—even deification—of great men and lofty, who have climbed the pinnacles:

Thou must know that I write not here as a story of history, as if it was related to me from another. I must continually stand in that combat, and I find it to be full of heavy strivings where in I am often struck to the ground, as well as all other men. But for the sake of the violent fight, and for the sake of the earnestness which we have together, this revelation has been given me, and the vehement driving or impulse to bring it so to pass as to set all down on paper … For when the flash rises up in the centre, one sees through and through, but cannot well apprehend or lay hold on it; for it happens to such an one as when there is tempest of lightning, where the flash of fire opens itself and suddenly vanishes. … For the old Adam belongs to the earth, and does not, with the flesh, belong to God. In this combat I had many hard trials to my heart’s grief. My Sun was often eclipsed or extinguished, but did rise again; and the oftener it was eclipsed the bright and clearer was its rising again. I do not write this for my own praise, but to the end that the reader may know wherein my knowledge stands, that he might not seek from me that which I have not, or think me to be what I am not.

Evelyn Underhill, a member of the Golden Dawn, said this about Jacob Boehme’s work:
For him, the universe was primarily a religious fact: its fiery energies, its impulse towards growth and change, were significant because they were aspects of the life of God. His cosmic vision was the direct outcome of spiritual experience; he told it, because he wished to stimulate in all men the spiritual life, make them realise that “Heaven and Hell are present everywhere, and it is but the turning of the will either into God’s love or into His wrath, that introduceth into them”.

While Thelemites and others might find some of this language too ‘Christian’ or ‘Godly’ to please their aesthetic sensibilities, we could posit that there is plenty of evidence of “God’s love” in Chapter One of the Egyptian Book of the Law. There is also an abundance of what Boehme would term as God’s “wrath” in the third chapter of that remarkable testimonial to the enduring power of ancient Egyptian magick. If we look for the meaning behind the metaphors, especially when that language has flowed from the hand of a mystic through the heart’s fountain of direct spiritual knowledge, we generally find that there is only one spiritual path in reality. The diversity, the apparent choices of a path to follow—including what many now prefer to imagine is their own ‘personal’ path—is the appearance of a doorway, not the entrance or the place where it may lead

There is a dramatised audio podcast version of this article here:

Thelemic Mysticism and Jacob Boehme


[1] Allan Bennett, a member of the Golden Dawn and friend and mentor of Aleister Crowley, wrote a rather beautiful Qabalistic essay on the first seven words of the bible, A Note on Genesis, which was published as part of The Equinox series of journals.

[2] For an example of humanistic psychological reductionism see The Challenge of Eternal Recurrence, Kathleen O’Dwyer, Philosophy Now Issue #93.

[3] The quotations from Jacob Boehme in this article are from The Confessions of Jacob Boehme (Kessinger Publishing Company, Montana).

[4] Aleister Crowley confused Christian mystic “grace” with the ordinary psychological meaning of this word in his sadomasochistic ritual called “Mass of the Phoenix”.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Astrum Draconis

Liber 373 Astrum Draconis was released at the solstice, 21st June 2017. The book includes our Liturgical Rite, the Mass of Hormaku with Litany and Collects. The best way to study the Liturgy and gain a complete understanding is in the context of the book, Liber 373, especially for those new to our rituals and methods. So that all brother and sister Thelemites may join us in the celebration, we published the Liturgy in full on our website at the solstice:


There follows the full description of Liber 373 Astrum Draconis with Qabalistic exegesis. 

Ordo Astri Liber 373 Astrum Draconis the Way of the Dragon Star
The Tantra of the West is here fully revealed and made accessible to the practical Thelemic magician through seven rays of the Dragon Star. While the decad of the Qabalistic Tree of Life is not usually equated with the better known sevenfold chakra system, the sevenfold Way of the Dragon was always implicit. The number 373 is that of Logos, the divine word or primal utterance by which all things in existence are ordered and given life. The number 373 is also that of the Greek word ataxia, “confusion”—the confusion of many voices that make up the discordant noise of the human ego. The number 373 provides the antidote, ShKM AChD, “to be of one mind”. The mind and body must be calmed before meditation can be achieved. The Oath, which also corresponds to 373, invokes the soul as silent witness to the ritual act. “Hail! ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand.” Who or what, then, are these twin warriors? They have arisen and are entwined about the axis of the universe; they manifest all phenomena. The division invoked by a magical Act of Will may arise as a dual force, symbolised on the Tree of Life by the two pillars or Moon and Sun of dreaming and waking consciousness. Liber 373 is suitable for the Thelemic aspirant of the grade of Philosophus, or anyone that dares to know, to will and to keep silence! It is also a course in magical Initiation that includes knowledge lectures, rituals, yoga, meditation, invocation, skrying and tasks to perform.

So this book is self-contained as far as possible, an extensive Appendices is included. Here we give the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Comment; the Gates of Babalon Ritual and Comment; Meditation and Preparations for Meditation; the Magician as Hierogyph; Purification and Consecration; Invoking Pentagrams of the Elements and Signatures of the Spirit.

Included here is also a newly revised version of the small book concerned with the Dedication of a Sanctuary or Temple. A magical Temple does not need to be an impressive structure made from stone, or a Masonic hall with tiled floor and pillars of Solomon. Buildings and specially equipped rooms are a fine thing and can be very beautiful, but the real shrine of deity is the heart of the devotee. Altars, wands, robes and lamps assist in linking magical forces with the physical plane of existence—and so the mind and body of the Initiate—but effective magical work can nonetheless be done without any special equipment. The dedication of a Sanctuary or Temple to its deity does not therefore depend on physical structures.

View / order the book from the author's website here.

© Oliver St. John 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Twilight of Creation and Bornless Spirit

E. A. Wallis Budge noted in The Gods of the Egyptians how little was known or indeed, remembered, of the swampy Ogdoad arising from the primal void even by the ancient Egyptians. However, much can be done with Budge’s literal translation and hieroglyphs when the magical tap of inspiration is turned on. In that way, we produced the ritual called the Twilight Vigil.

The Sepher Sephiroth of S. L. MacGregor Mathers that Aleister Crowley published under the cover of Liber 777 was never intended to be anything more than a beginning, a means of gaining a foothold in a vast and mysterious subject. Our Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth now extends to more than a thousand pages over two volumes, yet such a work is never truly finished.[1] Members of the Order must, according to tradition, keep their own book of numbers—so to continue the work. Most recently, I thought to examine the fifth verse of the first book of Genesis, which is arguably the most important Qabalistic source. I give here a transliteration of the key Hebrew words in parenthesis.

Genesis 1: 5

And the Elohim called the light [AVR] Day [IVM], and the darkness [ChShK] they called Night [LILH]. And the evening [ORB] and the morning [BQR] were the first day [IVM AChD].

“And the darkness” adds to 364, equal to Lux Occulta, the secret or hidden light. The absence of light is the condition of the numinous source of all, for light itself can only be a veil. The name Night is given as LILH, 75, equal to Nuit (NVIT). LIL (70) is the root, but LILH denotes the noun, as does Lilith, which is more expressly feminine. According to E. A. Wallis Budge when commenting on the primal Ogdoad of the Delta region in his Gods of the Egyptians, Nuit was merely the consort of Nu the sky god.[2] In our Theban and Thelemic schema, Nuit embraces all, and her consort is her son and manifest star, Set-Hadit (or Sirius). Thus Nuit and Hadit are really beyond light and darkness.

Much creative license is taken with the King James and other bible versions. This makes for better poetry (in the case of the KJV) but often loses something of value and in other ways often changes the meaning or context altogether. We could of course say that was already done when the Chaldean scriptures were placed in Modern Hebrew with vowel pointing. When such scriptures were first written, the ambiguity was intentional, as is the case with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sanskrit. Each word, let alone a sentence or verse, can then be read on many different levels of meaning.

Twilight of Creation: Kerah and Kerahet Primal Ogdoad Gods of Egypti (Denderah)
Kerah and Kerahet

The ancient Egyptian source work story of creation vastly predates the Bible and is so old that the later dynastic tales of Osiris, for example, are modern by comparison. E. A. Wallis Budge noted in The Gods of the Egyptians how little was known or indeed, remembered, of the swampy Ogdoad arising from the primal void even by the ancient Egyptians:

“The very gods of the older company had been superseded, and their worship abolished, and the knowledge of their history and attributes was preserved only in the minds of priests and religious experts, who probably regarded the ancient views about these gods which had come down to them as the product of men belonging to a lower stage of civilization than their own.”

The last statement of Budge’s is open to question since the ancient Egyptians had no concept of ‘progress’ to match that of our industrialised civilisation (so-called). However, much can be done with Budge’s literal translations and faithfully copied hieroglyphs when the magical tap of inspiration is turned on. In that way, we produced the ritual called the Twilight Vigil.[3] The Lords of Keraha, cited in some of the more obscure of ancient Egyptian holy books, were said to dwell in the swampy Delta, the metaphysical equivalent of the Abyss or Da’ath.

The fragmentary surviving knowledge concerning Keraha is a precise magical and scientific treatise compared to Genesis, which then begins to look like a version scribed for very small children. The first book of Genesis (in particular) is nonetheless beautifully written. Scientist magi like John Dee would have studied Genesis more than any other book, because it tells the story of the creation of the universe. And the story was, at that time, regarded as absolutely authoritative.[4] If you were a scholar, knowing your Bible well in more than one language was sometimes necessary for survival. One can only begin to imagine where one such as Dee might have taken things if he had access to the translations of Budge![5]

The Lords of Keraha or primal Neters emerging from Nu and Nuit are depicted as frog-headed (male) and snake-headed (female); sometimes they appear as cats. The important thing is that they are pairs, male and female dualities emerging from the undifferentiated Nun or Abyss. Kekui raises up the light and the day through the power of command, he is the exorcist (Hadit). Kekuit raises up the darkness and the night through the power of absorption, covering and enclosure (Nuit). Yet even Kekui and Kekuit are not the first pair of aeons emerging from Nu and Nuit. That honour goes to Hehu and Hehut, as it is declared in our ritual called the Twilight Vigil:

“I am Kerah, ruler of the Night!
I am Kerahet, soul of the Abyss!
I am Kekui, for I call forth your names in the primordial depth!
I am Kekuit, for I raise you with my sceptre!
I am Hehu and Hehut, and I stand between the heavens and the earth!
It is I that give life to you, with my spirit!”

In Twilight Vigil we wanted to assert a return to the Bornless or primal condition rather than give yet another rendition of creation, so Hehu and Hehut are named last. This asserts that the undifferentiated chaos and night as the source of the word of light is the source of life itself. Instead of being opposed to light, as an enemy, the night is neither this nor that, and yet it is the whole span of the unfathomable mystery of life and consciousness. With all respect to the darkly luminous works of Kenneth Grant, the real (or original) Typhonian or Setian Gnosis is not “Against the Light”. It was never for or against anything. Truth is. Wisdom seeks more than ordinary knowledge. All questions of this or that spring from turbulence, and ultimately are no more than an egotistic urge towards self-assertion—which in itself gives rise to the neurosis of self-doubt.[6]


[1] The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth consists of more than one thousand pages over two volumes.

[2] See The Gods of the Egyptians, Volume I. While there are several versions of this online, it is well worth taking the trouble to purchase the excellent Dover edition of both volumes.

[3] The ritual called the Twilight Vigil is given with a commentary in our book, The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation.

[4] The Darwin-based theory of Evolution and the many projections and assumptions that go with that is our modern day secular version of religious dogma. Anyone daring to challenge its supreme canonical authority will be held to ridicule if not mocked. Science dogma also includes the ‘holy of holies’ that the human species is the most intelligent on this planet (if not in the universe) and that its needs supersede the needs of all other creatures. Curiously, the anthropocentric view of creation originated in the West with the biblical books of Genesis!

[5] Budge is no longer in favour with some Egyptologists nowadays, and his rather literal translations and commentaries have been subjected to heavy criticism. However, the literal translations avoid the projections of modern cultural bias, something that Budge would have been well aware of and that modern day scholars would do well to learn from. Furthermore, the literal translation, when viewed alongside the hieroglyphics, provides by far the best resource for the practical Hermetic magician. E. A. Wallis Budge is thought by some to have been a member of an active Golden Dawn Temple in London (see Ithell Colquhoun, Sword of Wisdom). This would no doubt serve to further displease Budge’s Egyptological critics.

[6] For the Adept of the magical arts there is condition of mind that might be termed as ‘hyper turbulence’. Christian mystic Jacob Boehme created the word turba to describe this state of affairs. Turba is far more than ordinary anxiety as understood in the conventional and psychological sense.

© Oliver St. John 2017

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Nu Golden Dawn: Night Magick vs Light Magick

The post-truth age is a chilling but unavoidable truth.[1] At least, it is a truth so long as we can no longer discern the true from the false, good from evil. While truth cannot be absolutely true, true discernment is made in the heart and not the reasoning mind alone. This is the seat of what is called the True Will or Thelema.

Deconstructionism was used as a method in the arts long before it was recognised as driving political debate (so-called). Kenneth Grant—perhaps first of the post-modern occultists—laid a trail so littered with ‘blinds’ that even the most perceptive individuals have difficulty deciphering the way. Yet when he neared the end of his time—and foresaw the end of ours—he was unequivocal so far as stating that Initiates should prepare for the incoming wave of Qliphoth. To explain this in the terms coined by Grant: rends in the subtle fabric that once protected the planet are now admitting overwhelming incursions from Outside. The uninitiated have no defence against the resultant atavistic resurgence and succumb to obsession in their legions. Grant’s instructions for the needful preparations are nonetheless scattered about the Typhonian Trilogies in a way that makes them difficult to find and identify.[2]

The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites: Golden Dawn Altar or Material Basis

It is our stated aim to redefine the operation of the Magick of Light for the New Aeon. The term, “Magick of Light”, owes to the Golden Dawn tradition established by Samuel Liddell MacGregor and Moïna Mathers, Wyn Westcott, William Woodman, Florence Farr and company. The deconstruction of that legacy was carefully prepared and set in motion by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones. It could be said that half a century later Kenneth Grant finished off completely the job they started. Or did he simply weave a seductively alluring tapestry, a fantastic veil to hide the real secret of the Golden Dawn from the profane—thus doing the bidding of the Secret Chiefs in a way more subtle than the darkly devious devices of his own imagining?

It was Kenneth Grant that cleverly noticed the Golden Dawn expression of the reification of the Magick of Light as spelling “The Great L.I.E.” (Light in Extension). This is an Eastern and indeed dualistic philosophical view to take, though in reality not much different from that of Aleister Crowley who increasingly resorted to the Yi-King over the Tarot (which he was never good at by his own admission) and the Taoist way over that of the Hermetic. Crowley littered his work with paradoxical assertions and negations, as did Kenneth Grant, albeit in a very different style.

The dualistic denial of matter and proclamation of spiritual supremacy is nothing new; it was included in the knowledge of the syncretic Golden Dawn tradition. The use of the Chaldean Oracles, attributed to the Persian sage Zoroaster, provides a fine example. The Upanishads are full of it. Strangely enough, everyone seems to be more or less in agreement that the way of the West differs from that of the East in so far as matter is not to be denied but transformed. The extraordinarily lurid works of Kenneth Grant are as syncretic as those of any Golden Dawn. After all, he was not urging us to become Hindus or Buddhists. The “Typhonian tradition” is usually taken to refer not to an ancient Egyptian pre-dynastic cult but to the legacy of Kenneth Grant’s writings. The said writing embraces all manner of expressions, from an inverted view of the Golden Dawn, Grant’s extended use of Gematria, which he called “Creative Qabalah”, and on to Zen, Taoism, witchcraft, voodoo, demonology and even ufology.

The redoubtable Scientific Illuminism of Aleister Crowley is austere in comparison with the amorphous Nightside of Grant, but it continued the Golden Dawn tradition—after a fashion at least—in the declared aim of universalism. The universalism of the syncretic Golden Dawn was established at least a decade before a young Aleister Crowley was introduced to the household.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Crowley and other first wave Golden Dawn dissidents discarded elements of the tradition that were valuable and magically vital. For example, the early Golden Dawn temples had equal rights and privileges for women that meant far more than paying mere lip service to a lofty ideal. When Mathers moved base from London to Paris he appointed Florence Farr as head. The respect afforded the women of the Golden Dawn is less surprising when we consider that the primary magical contact behind MacGregor and Moïna Mathers was the Egyptian goddess Isis. The first Golden Dawn temple in London was therefore named Isis-Urania. Crowley, on the other hand, revered women only when poeticising, and was otherwise consistent in asserting male supremacy in all things—an attitude that has continued in his legacy even to the present times.[3]

Nu Golden Dawn

While Grant proposed a way (if you can see it) that is essentially Against the Light, he nonetheless insisted, in his earlier writings at least, that one must attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel before bravely immersing oneself in the demon worlds of the Qliphoth.[4] And here is a strange thing to relate in view of the polemic against luminosity: the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is a Hermetic and Theurgic magical operation. The irony of Kenneth Grant’s Tunnels of Set is that they lead nowhere; the longer one stays in the cloying labyrinth the further one is from the fragrance of the mystic rose. The Holy Guardian Angel, a divine messenger that conveys direct mystical experience to the soul, is very much part of the Rosicrucian scheme of things. That means working the grades of the Golden Dawn as far as Tiphereth, the central solar radiance of the whole Tree of Life. At the foot of the Tree, coiled about the Kingdom of Malkuth, Thanatos and Eros weave the Ring-Pass-Not that mockingly bars all ways to the canopied couch of Logos and Agape.

The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation is due for release this Easter tide. Details about the book are posted on the Ordo Astri website and at Tantrika Books. There is also a discursive commentary on this in our upcoming Temple of Babalon podcast, Episode 17.


[1] Post-truth is where personal opinion and agenda is made to obscure or simply deny obvious facts. It is usually descriptive of faux political debate, but has wide application.

[2] Kenneth Grant refers to a certain “Sign of Protection”. This is described in The Ninth Arch, Appendices I (Starfire Publishing).

[3] One only has to read Aleister Crowley’s The Law is for All to understand where he stood regarding the place of women. Ref: The Law is For All, by Aleister Crowley, New Falcon Publications 1991; pp. 305–12 and 315–6.

[4] Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative is the title of a book by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 2016).

 © Oliver St. John 2017

Friday, 17 February 2017

Nuit-Babalon Gnosis: Thunder Perfect Mind

The Creatrix has a primal role in the ancient mysteries—namely, the pre-religious mysteries, which are inclusive of the sacred feminine. Babalon is the daughter of Nuit, and the Scarlet Woman her soul. The fragments of Gnostic scriptures that survived the book burners more than two millennia ago are heavily tainted with what was then the growing suppression of women and all magical practices. Scriptures such as the Trimorphic Protennoia (Nag Hammadi, online) carry powerful elements of the Gnosis, but such texts were already being redacted and overwritten under the influence of fanatical all-male ascetic cults. Such cults—no less than the religions that formed out of them—can only construe the sacred in a male image, or otherwise as an abstract ‘Father’ whose ministers obediently spout nationalist and militarist propaganda. In modern times the Left-hand path—outside of the ashram—is portrayed in the language and images of a fear-phantasm created in the averse mirror of fifteen centuries of tyrannical state suppression.

Nuit-Babalon Gnosis: Whore of Babylon by William Blake
BABALON the HOLY (William Blake)

Any person that has spent time with the books of the Bible—unless they accept the convoluted thought of religious theological doctrine—will understand the need for a radiation suit when browsing, let alone embarking on a prolonged study. The ferocious condemnation of all ‘foreign’ gods and their (pagan) worshippers in the Old Testament, the horrible threats and curses against anyone (especially women) practicing magick, divination—or even dancing—roll on, foaming at the mouth, for page upon page. The emergent state monotheism of 500–600 BCE not only threw out the priestesses from the temples but also systematically took away all the rights of women, forcing them to become wholly subservient to men through laws that were to be enforced with the utmost cruelty. (The biblical book of Numbers 30, 1–16, for merely one case example, is a catalogue of hateful and incredibly damaging laws.)

The Order of the Golden Dawn, while under the leadership of Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers and later, Florence Farr, introduced equal rights and opportunities for women among its membership as early as the 1890s. Feminist writing since the 1970s by now forms a clearly defined—and self-defining—genre. Unfortunately this may have assisted in continuing the suppression that the writers wish to draw attention to.  The wider esoteric community has not yet woken up to the fact that we cannot take the Qabalah, and (therefore) much of ceremonial magick without making some needful adjustments. The traditional Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram (as given in Aleister Crowley’s Liber O and various Golden Dawn derived material), for example, requires the magician to invoke the biblical demiurge Tetragrammaton in the East. This is the same demiurge that, according to scripture, curses all other gods, hates women and all ‘foreigners’, and demands that worshippers of any other gods but the supreme god of the patriarchs should be “utterly destroyed”. (The latter phrase occurs as an exact match no fewer than 21 times in the King James Bible, commencing with the book of Exodus, 22: 20.) Very often in the very next verse of scripture, the “Jealous God” tetchily demands the timely submission of first-born human or (later on) animal sacrifices. Is that really what we want to invoke to protect our magical circle?

Let us consider, for example, that our magical circle is usually set up for the invocation of Egyptian and Babylonian or Mesopotamian deities. These, along with all magical arts and divination, are furiously condemned in the oracles of the monotheistic ‘God’. It is foolish to imagine that the work of Qabalists in the Western Mystery Tradition, however well intentioned, can somehow patch this over by positing that Tetragrammaton is merely an elemental formula, or that the insertion of an additional letter shin puts it all to rights by asserting a Christian theological notion of ‘redemption’ based on sin, guilt and debt (it comes as no surprise to learn that redemption or salvation developed alongside early banking systems).

The rise of asceticism, anthropocentric religions and scientism, coincided historically with the rise of patriarchal governance, suppression of women, the viewing of nature as an adversary and (as a consequence) the wholesale destruction of our natural environment. The distortion of the Sumerian creation myth where Eve, instead of being blessed, is cursed for all of time for giving Adam the fruits of knowledge to eat (Genesis 2) has been continued in modern times. Crowley’s The Law is for All contains some ill-considered and completely inexcusable examples of mystic misogyny of the worst kind. (Furthermore, do we really believe that Rose Crowley was not even present in the room in Cairo 1904 at the reception of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis?)

Of the Gnostic scriptures, the voice of the deity that comes closest to that of our Thelemic Shakti-Babalon, the bride of the Beast or Serpent, is quite possibly the Sethian Gnostic Thunder Perfect Mind.* While baffling to scholars who cannot work out where to place it, the enigmatic Thunder text has strong resonances with the voice of Madimi and Babalon that appeared to John Dee and Edward Kelly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It is also comparable to the voice of Nuit in chapter one of Liber AL vel Legis, the Babalon of the Jack Parsons workings, and the Babalon or Sophia-Barbelo that has appeared to Thelemic devotees in more recent times. It is my view that The Thunder Perfect Mind was received in oracular fashion, and that some of it may have been delivered in response to questions asked by those assembled to hear it. More than one scribe may have recorded the oracle, accounting for some overlapping in the source text, as though different versions were superimposed.

To celebrate the Gnosis, I thought to present here an initiated transcription and magical restoration of the sacred text of Thunder Perfect Mind. It is in every way suitable for use as a magical invocation.

The Thunder Perfect Mind or Babalon the Holy

I was sent forth from Mystery,
And I will come to them that reflect upon me,
For those that seek me, shall find me.
Behold me, ye who reflect upon me,
And listen to me, ye that that have ears to hear!
Ye who have waited for me, take me to yourselves,
And do not banish me from your sight.
Do not say hateful things of me, do not hear them spoken.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or at any time.
Be vigilant! Do not forget me.

I am the First and the Last.
I am the blessed one and the forsaken one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one—and yet many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is of great nobility,
And I have not taken a husband.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
And it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father,
And the sister of my husband,
And yet he is my offspring,
And from him I take my power.
I am the rod of his power in his youth,
And he is the staff of my old age.
I am the Silence beyond knowing,
And the Idea of continuous recollection.
I am the Voice whose tongues are legion,
And the Word whose forms are many.
I am the Oracle, whose utterance is my name.

You who deny me, confess me,
And you who confess me, deny me.
You who tell the truth about me, lie about me,
And you who have lied about me, tell the truth about me.
You who know me, do not know me,
And those who have not known me, let them know me.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and I am pride.
I am shameless and I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and I am peace.
Take heed of me! For I am the one who is disgraced,
And the one who is exalted greatly.

I am [ISIS] the one whose Image is great in Egypt,
And the one who has no Image among the barbarians.
I am the one who has been hated everywhere,
And who has been loved everywhere.
I am the one whom they call Life,
And that you have called Death.
I am the one whom they call Law,
And that you have called Lawlessness.
I am the one whom you have pursued,
And I am the one whom you have seized.
I am the one whom you have scattered,
Even while ye have gathered me together.
I am the one before whom you were ashamed,
And you have been shameless unto me.

I am the one whom you have despised,
And yet you reflect upon me.
I am the one you have hidden from,
And thus do you appear to me!
And wherever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
And whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.

You that would know me
Will yet darken my understanding,
And embrace my wisdom with sorrow.
You embrace me in places that are ugly and ruined,
And steal from those which are true, even in your falsehood.
Out of shame, take me to yourselves shamelessly.
And when you find fault in my members,
Look for that fault in yourselves.
Come forward to me, you who know me
And you who know my members,
Then you will establish the great ones
Among the smallest of creatures.

Why do you curse me and pretend to honour me?
When you were wounded, I gave you mercy.
Do not separate me from those who once knew you.
And do not cast anyone out, nor turn anyone away.
I am the Mind of Thunderous Perfection.
I am the answer to my own question,
And the knowledge of those who seek after me,
And the will of those who ask of me.
I am the power of the powers in my knowledge
Of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
And of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
And of the spirits of every man who dwells with me,
And of the women who dwell within me.
I am the one who is blessed, and who is praised,
And yet who is scornfully despised.
I am peace, and war has come because of me.
And I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.

There are those who cannot know me from their ignorance,
And those who know me, that are of my very substance.
Yet those who are close to me have yet been ignorant of me,
And those who are far away from me have yet known me a little.
On the day when I am close to you,
You are far away from me,
And on the day when I am far away from you,
I am closer to you than I can ever be.

I am forever within.
I am always of the qualities.
I am forever of the principalities and the spirits.
I am always that which the soul seeks.
I am control and that which is uncontrollable.
I am unity and dissolution.
I am the one that is below,
And yet they come up to me.
I am judgement and acquittal.
I, I am sinless, and the root of sin derives from me.
I am the weak lust in the appearance of things,
And the strong will to the eternal is within me.
I am the sound that may be heard by everyone,
And the voice that is beyond reason.
I am a mute who does not speak forth,
And yet great is the multitude of my words.

I prepare the bread and my Mind is within it.
I am the knowledge of my own name.
I am the one who cries out, and who hears.
I appear and yet I walk in the shadow of invisibility.
I am the attacked and the defended.
I am the one who is called Truth,
And who is known to be iniquitous.
For what is within you is what is outside of you,
And the one who fashions you on the outside
Is the one who shaped the inside of you.
And what you see outside of you, you will see inside of you.
It is visible, and it is your garment.

Hear me, o ye that have ears to hear,
And learn of my words, ye who know me!
I am the sound that is attainable by all;
I am the voice beyond reason.
I am the name of the sound,
And the sound of the name.
I am the signature of the letter,
And the seal of the division.
And I am the darkness and the light.
And I am the voice of my listeners,
And the one who listens to you.

For I am the Great Power.
And he that sends forth to me will hear my name.
And he that delivers me shall be as one who created me.
And I will speak forth his name.
Take heed then, ye that hear me,
And ye angels also, and those who have been sent,
And ye spirits who have arisen from the dead.
For I am the one who alone exists,
And I have no one who will judge me.

Many are the pleasant forms that exist in
Numerous sins, and poisons,
Even in disgraceful passions, and fleeting pleasures,
Which men embrace weakly.
When they seek, and attain clarity,
And go up to their place of peace,
Then at last shall they find me.
And they shall have life,
And they will not die again.


Related articles:
The Oracle of Babalon: Daughter of Fortitude (article)
The Oracle of Babalon: Daughter of Fortitude (podcast)

Related books by Oliver St. John:
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth

* The source texts of Thunder Perfect Mind are available online. The Nag Hammadi Library, online, has several different translations of most of the Gnostic texts.

Other books of note: The Sword of Wisdom, Ithell Colquhoun, is an account of MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn that is uniquely trustworthy and fair.

© Oliver St. John 2017