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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.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Magick of the Capricorn Solstice

The 26th path is called the Renewing Intelligence. The Tarot trump assigned to the path is The Devil XV. The esoteric title is The Lord of the Gates of Matter: Child of the Forces of Time. The Devil portrayed in most Tarot decks is a hybrid creature with bat-like wings, somewhat akin to Baphomet, the goat-foot God said to be worshipped by the Knights Templars.

Crowley Thoth Tarot Atu XV, The Devil

Crowley-Thoth Tarot trump The Devil XV

Aleister Crowley's design identifies this Devil with Pan, the All-Begetter, and it is a brazenly phallic portrayal. The devilish goat has a third eye in the middle of his forehead. At the top of the Tarot trump is shown the rings of Saturn—for Capricorn is ruled by that planet in astrology. Saturn may also be identified with the ancient Egyptian Set, the ass-headed God of the desert. The desert is a symbol of the spiritual wilderness that seekers of truth and knowledge have entered into since time immemorial. The Hebrew name for the planet Saturn is Shabbathai—and from that word was derived the legendary Sabbath of the Witches. The image of Capricorn represents creative energy in its most material form. To quote from Crowley’s The Book of Thoth:

The card represents Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter. It is the Tree of Life as seen against a background of the exquisitely tenuous, complex, and fantastic forms of madness, the divine madness of spring, already foreseen in the meditative madness of winter; for the Sun turns northwards on entering this sign … In every symbol of this card there is the allusion to the highest things and most remote. Even the horns of the goat are spiral, to represent the movement of the all-pervading energy.

From Volume One our book, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:

The 26th path of Ayin connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Hod, the sphere of Mercury, and is imaged forth by the 15th Tarot key, The Devil. The title of the path afforded by the Sepher Yetzirah is the Renewing Intelligence, referring to the renewal and perpetuity of all created forms. On the human level, the renewal refers to the adaptation that is required so the intellect does not atrophy—for the identification of the personal ego with the forms or constructs that appear in Hod increases the limiting or restricting power of Saturn, the ruler of the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. As it is written in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41:

The word of Sin is Restriction.

It is the desire to become free of material limitations that drives man to seek freedom, yet it is necessary to understand the principles of nature and their operation in the world before any limits can be transcended—the prime limitation being man himself, and his ignorance of natural laws. The magical powers of the 26th path are the Witches Sabbath (so-called) and the Evil Eye.

The Dweller on the Threshold

Saturn or Set has many forms and can be viewed from infinite perspectives. His nature is something of a paradox. The Tarot picture for the month of Sagittarius, Art XIV, depicts an Angel, while the Tarot Atu for the month of Capricorn commencing with the solstice, depicts a Devil. This Angel and Devil are two sides of one coin, a dual expression of the soul and of that very quaint appellation, the ‘Holy Guardian Angel’. The trickster, the shapeshifter, the adversary, the opposer, the shadow, the stranger, the ‘other’ are all names for Set, Saturn or the Devil, whose role in Initiation is so central that sometimes he is termed as simply, the Lord of Initiation. Another epithet is the Dweller on the Threshold. The following is an instructional piece on the Dweller on the Threshold, reproduced from our course in practical Qabalah:

While it is true that aspirants to any contacted magical Order are tested by what are poetically termed the Lords of Initiation, our students are not asked to take any oath or obligation that would incur a trial by fire. Nonetheless there is something that we call the Dweller on the Threshold. As soon as a foot is placed on the path, the Dweller on the Threshold will appear. The shape or form of this Devil is unique to each individual since it is a phantom produced by the person’s karma.[1] While this deters many from continuing the work they started with such enthusiasm and inner-conviction, it is in fact the first stirring of real Initiation.

Whether Initiation really takes hold or not is largely determined by the way the person responds to the Dweller on the Threshold. There will be help if that help is recognised for what it is. There will most certainly be hindrance, obstruction and even seduction—the powerfully compelling voices that urge us to give this up as it will do us no good, that we have made the wrong choice or there is a better, more authentic discipline further down the road. The Dweller on the Threshold may take the form of some perceived or genuine misfortune, or a general sense of unease or misgiving. It may take the form of a migraine, one of those ‘flu viruses that is hard to shake off, the incessant demands of a spouse, a difficult child, a manipulative mother, a bullying father or boss at work. Money can be a considerable ‘Dweller’—whether there is too little, or too much of it. An outbreak of supernatural phenomena quite often occurs with those that have awakening psychic sensitivity—the ‘things that go bump in the night’. The Initiates are those who persist, that possess the will and the resolve to keep on. Perhaps there is something else too, the “factor infinite and unknown” referred to in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 32. It is said that many are called but few are chosen. Paradoxically it is the aspirant that must use their free will to choose in the first place.

One must strive to understand the Dweller on the Threshold. There is a caveat: The Oath and Task of a Magister Templi is “to interpret every phenomenon as a direct dealing of God with my soul”. The New Age movement with its voracious appetite for assimilating and trivialising the threads from all wisdom traditions has tended to encourage its followers to adopt that particular jnanamudra without any training and preparation and without any supporting philosophical basis or structure. To apply such a method at the beginning of the study and work will bring that study and work to a swift conclusion.

[1] The Sanskrit word karma means “action”. It generally refers to the phenomenon of cause and effect that appears to govern the machinations of the material universe.


© Oliver St. John 2013, 2017