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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.

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Priest-Kings of Thelema

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief. The word does not occur in The Book of the Law.”
Aleister Crowley, “Religion: Is Thelema a New Religion?” Magick Without Tears

On the 27th November 2015 the Cairo Post published the following item: “The sarcophagus of the priest Ankh-f-n-khonsu has been unearthed in Cairo.” Within hours the story proliferated on the web. Not that many of us are experts on Egyptology or the factual background to Aleister and Rose Crowley’s mediumistic reception of Liber AL vel Legis in 1904 e.v. Thelemites will know, though, that the Graeco-Egyptian Book of the Law transmission was activated by the newly wedded couple’s discovery of a certain funeral stele numbered “666” in the Boulak museum in Cairo. When the news story was released, thousands leapt to the conclusion that the sarcophagus belonged to Ankh-af-na-khonsu of the Stele of Revealing that initiated the modern cult of Thelema. Not so, pointed out the experts, since the sarcophagus of the priest and scribe of the Stele is already known about and it is not this one. Photographs of the sarcophagus and Stele of Revealing, as kept at the Boulak, appear in the restored edition of Aleister Crowley’s Magick. Here is the photograph of the belongings of the 26th dynasty priest and scribe Ankh af-na-khonsu, to whom the Stele of Revealing belonged. The Stele of Revealing can be seen in the photograph, propped up and backward facing:

Ankh af-na-khonsu artifacts, Boulak Cairo

The rumour was thus quickly squashed and silly people were chastised for assuming that the newly unearthed sarcophagus, dating to a couple of centuries earlier than the Stele 666, was that of the priest and scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu mentioned in The Book of the Law. In fact, it turns out that the newly unearthed sarcophagus was that of a member of the same Theban cult. Initiates of the cult all took the eponymous name or title, “Ankh-af-na-khonsu”.

Oddly enough, no one seems to have thought this one through any further. The implications for the (modern) cult of Thelema are profound. The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu mentioned in Liber AL vel Legis does not refer to any particular individual, it refers to all members of an Initiatic cult that existed in Egypt at least centuries before the 26th Dynasty. This ties in very neatly with our “unofficial comment” on the Book of the Law, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga. In that book we draw a distinction between Aleister Crowley as the scribe of the Liber AL vel Legis revelation, and the Ankh-af-na-khonsu that is referred to as “prophet and scribe” in the book. Crowley believed in reincarnation, a common belief with occultists of the 20th century. He assumed that Ankh-af-na-khonsu was himself in a ‘past life’ in the 26th dynasty of ancient Egypt. In The Law of Thelema, we place more emphasis on Thelema as a timeless wisdom, embedded in the Hermetic-Gnostic tradition.

In a sense, the last piece of jigsaw puzzle has now completed the picture, and perhaps the “secret that has not yet been revealed” (Liber AL, II: 1) is finally out – at least for anyone that fervently desires to know it. Aleister and Rose Crowley succeeded in cracking open an inner plane time capsule, in a manner of speaking. The transmission from Thebes is to convey the direct knowledge revelation of a prophetic Theban cult, the cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, whose name literally means, “Life of the Sky-rider”. The Rider of the Sky was an Egyptian name for the Moon, in particular, the god Khonsu, the child of Mut and Amoun. To the Theban cult, Khonsu assumed all the attributes of other gods such as Atem Ra, Horus and Amoun, and carried the Left-eye of the Moon as his totem hieroglyph.

A prophetic revelation will always be open to interpretation, for prophecy is akin to divination and has nothing to do with prediction—though the two things are frequently confused. Aleister Crowley, in keeping with 20th century Utopianism allied to the cult of the individual ego—a cult that has now reached its apotheosis—saw himself as the prophet of a New Aeon. Crowley’s interpretation of Thelema was coloured by rational humanism, as one might expect for a man of his time. Kenneth Grant, Aleister Crowley’s nearest lineal successor, also sought to form his own cult, woven from the fabric of his imagination and helped along by the works of Gerard Massey, and diverse others such as The Sirius Mystery—New Scientific Evidence for Alien Contact 5000 Years Ago (Robert Temple, 1976), not to mention the fantastical tales of Howard P. Lovecraft. Kenneth Grant, whom Crowley chastised for going off on a “pipe-dream”, focussed his work entirely on the Qliphoth, an intensely dualistic aspect of the Qabalah that classifies a world of demons inhabiting an inverse Tree of Knowledge in the shadow of the Tree of Life. Both men were successful, in various ways, in forming cults of Thelema based on their own highly sexualised, modernist variations on the Hermetic Magnum Opus.

Both versions of Thelema bear little if any relation to the source work’s roots in an ancient Egyptian Initiatory cult. Liber AL vel Legis is in some ways an ‘anti-scripture’, in that the matter of the book insists that all religions are “crapulous creeds.” That is to say, religious belief based on scriptural law is a condition of being intoxicated, as is the human ego in love with itself. The cult of Ankh af-na-khonsu was about Initiation, not the dissemination of social or political propaganda. There was no word in the ancient Egyptian language for “religion”, “gods” or “God”. What we translate as “gods” or “God”, the Egyptians termed as Neteru or Neter. The Neteru are divine and universal principles that are observable in nature and that may be known through their symbol. The Great Neter was the nearest equivalent to “God”, a term that can be translated as the “principle of the principles”, or, “the principle that is itself beyond all”.

It seems ironic that a religion of Thelema was to have been founded, long after the death of Aleister Crowley in 1947 e.v., and somewhat against his wishes—he made his position clear in Magick Without Tears, “Religion: Is Thelema a New Religion?” After exploring what the term “religion” means, he concludes the letter as follows:

“Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief. The word does not occur in The Book of the Law.”

The Egyptian Book of the Law goes further than merely eschewing all religious beliefs. By denouncing human rationality as an instrument of the personal ego, the book declares war on all dogma, including that of material science. It would not have been necessary, in the 26th dynasty of Egypt, to include such repudiation in any knowledge transmission. Only a small portion of the book’s content, though, is uninterrupted by the intervention of thoughts and questions from Aleister Crowley. The spiritual and magical doctrine of the cult of Ankh af-na-khonsu is clearly expounded in the first thirteen verses of the first chapter. After that, Crowley wanted to assert himself—he had an agenda, based on his desire to assume control of the Rosicrucian stream within the Western Hermetic Tradition. Through the second and third chapters, the tone of the communicating intelligences therefore becomes increasingly hostile and fragmentary. In fact, the verdict seems to have been reached as early as I: 17, when it is flatly declared, “But ye are not so chosen.” In the context of the preceding verses, Crowley is warned not to make the error of personally identifying himself with the “prince-priest the Beast”, the “chosen apostle of infinite space” (I: 15). Crowley sought a way out of this by later suggesting that “ye” must refer to others, not him! It is best if we do not confuse the symbol with its concrete meaning, or the metaphor with that which it alludes to. For the benefit of the reader, who might find all this confusing, the true identity of the Beast and Scarlet Woman is revealed, at least metaphorically, in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 16:

For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight.

We are dealing with cosmic principles here. Even the soul that has attained supreme libration cannot be Ishvara, supreme Lord of the Universe, as was explained by Swami Vivekananda in “The Philosophy of Ishvara” in his treatise on Bhakti Yoga.

In those sections of Liber AL where the knowledge transmission is uninterrupted by Aleister Crowley’s thoughts and questions about his supposed role as prophet for a New Aeon—or at least as the chief of a restored Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—the Initiated doctrine is expounded. As I have written previously, in “Thelemic Doctrine of the Afterlife”, this concerns the vital question of the soul’s survival after physical death. This doctrine was examined in The Ending of the Words:
“The achievement of the soul outlined in Liber AL vel Legis depends on vital magical and spiritual factors. Far from being a type of spiritually sanctioned hedonism, as some would have it, Thelema requires the soul to apply ruthless discrimination on the path. This is made all the more difficult since only the knowledge of the True Will conveyed by the Holy Guardian Angel can provide the guiding truth for each soul – yet the spiritual work to be done has profound import to every man and every woman that is a star. The choice for the soul is still understood to be one of life on the one hand or annihilation on the other.”
I have added the emphasis on the last sentence, to make this clear. We are not offering classes in self-improvement, assertiveness training, or yoga for relaxation and health here. The problem with conveying such a message now, in this consumer and market-driven, global catastrophe-haunted technological age, is that:
“[The soul] will be led by Hadit through her own death and resurrection so as to open a portal or gateway through which others may pass to discover new worlds of beauty and truth. Such portals are, however, completely invisible to the world of ordinary senses.”
The immortal stone or star is not a saleable or marketable product. It is not a new religion, doomed to merely rearrange the symbolism of previous religions and then insist the new image of Ishvara, or his man-god-prophet, is “The Truth”. It should be clear from the generic cult name, Ankh af-na-khonsu, that to associate Thelema with any individual human personality is an error of a magnitude. Let us attempt here to define the Hermetic Magnum Opus, in the terms of our “unofficial comment” on Liber AL vel Legis:
“The Great Work of the Initiatic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu was the magical transmutation of the soul and the knowledge of the spiritual and natural law governing this operation. The formula of this opus was recorded on the funeral stone of one such Initiate, and is called the Stele of Revealing, of which Liber AL vel Legis is a theurgical activation.”

© Oliver St. John 2015

Friday, 16 October 2015

The True Significance of 666

This article is from the Appendices, The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity.

Popular culture abounds with references to the mysterious number 666, which appeared at the end of the biblical book of St. John’s Revelation or Apocalypse. The number has been subject to much quasi-mystical and scholastic speculation. Fiction has it that there is something singularly evil about this trinity of sixes—as though a number could possess moral values! Mark Twain famously wrote that “truth is stranger than fiction”. Truth often takes a little effort to arrive at, whereas blindly repeating fictitious notions does not. Once a thing is said often enough it comes to be regarded as a fact.

What, then, is the true significance of 666? To put it poetically, as well as Qabalistically, it is a flower blooming in the desert at night. The true significance of any-thing is in pure meditation. A Gnostic word for meditation is zomah (ZMH), which translates as “meditation, thought, imagination, knowledge.” The English word “meditation” is derived from a Latin verb, meditari, which has the root meaning of “measure”. The measure of a thing can be a key to its true significance, hence, “He that hath wisdom shall count the number” in the biblical book of Revelation. We will get on to how to “count the number of the beast” in a moment.

Numbers are more than the expression of a quantity of things; they are pure ideas, things in themselves. The number 6 will always be the number 6; it will never be 7 or 8 no matter where we are or how we think about it. When any idea, object, person or creature is considered as a separate thing in itself it is meaningless; this gives rise to all notions of hell. The true significance of hell is separation. No thing can be known unless other things are brought in to “measure” it. When all things are measured or added together then the sum total of knowledge is truly significant or beautiful. When each thing is loved and understood, knowledge becomes wisdom. Love is about the relationship of things. The meaning and significance of any object only becomes apparent when it is known by another.

For those not moved into a rapture by the consideration of numbers as pure ideas, or by the poetry latent in that branch of Hermeticism called the Holy Qabalah, then there is the plain or literal significance.[1] This is where the counting comes in:
6 x 6 = 36

Now we can add together all the numbers between 1 and 36:

∑ (1–36) = 666

If we divide 666 by 6:

666 ÷ 6 = 111
The number 111 is the number of Aleph spelled in full: ALP = 111. Aleph is the Fool of Tarot or Spirit of Aethyr, and the beast (“ox”) that pulls the plough—the Energy of the Work. All this was worked out and calculated in ancient times and shown by use of a Kamea or Magic Square. The Kamea of the number 6 has 36 squares, 6 x 6. When we add each row or column, even the diagonal, it always adds to 111. If we add every number in the Kamea, we get 666. The number 666 is a trinity or triangulation of 6, as the number repeats three times. The triangle is the measure of two other points and is the means of understanding the true significance of anything.

On the Qabalistic Tree of Life—which is Platonic, a decimal system based on the Pythagorean Tetractys—the 6th number or divine emanation corresponds to the Sun as the centre of our immediate universe and is called Tiphereth, “Beauty” or “Harmony”. The Kamea of the number 6 is therefore the Kamea of the Sun.

The first three connecting paths or Intelligences of the Hermetic Tree of Life—Aleph, Beth and Gimel—add to 666 Qabalistically. As the word of the magical Beast or Logos the number has an affinity with Chokmah or Wisdom, traditionally the second sephira on the Hermetic Tree at the pinnacle of the pillar of Force. The number 2 is in turn reflected on the path of Beth, the House of the Magus—whose ability to create forms is derived from the light that has its source in Chokmah, and which is projected into the dark womb of Binah along the 14th path of Daleth. There is a Tree in every sphere, and it is the Tree of Tiphereth—the Son (or Sun) of Chokmah and Binah—that is the Tree of Eternity, the Tree of Life.

Kamea of the Sun form The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity

Here is the Kamea of the Sun. “He that hath wisdom shall count the number of the beast”. The number of the beast is also the number of a man because to know the spiritual Sun that is veiled by the material fire of the solar system, man must do a Great Work. The great sacrifice required for that lofty accomplishment is that of giving time to meditation until the cessation of chaotic thoughts gives rise to a flower blooming in the desert at night.


[1] See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth (Ordo Astri). 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Thelemic Magical Doctrine of the Afterlife

This article is taken from the Appendices, The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity.

The Afterlife is a subject frequently ignored. It is generally assumed that the esotericist accepts the doctrine of reincarnation. The mutant version of metempsychosis, or reincarnation, became increasingly popular in the Western world from the time of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and onwards. The doctrine is relatively modern, appearing in the middle of the first millennium in both Greek and Hindu philosophy, Orphism and the Vedas. Greek scholars dispute that Plato, who wrote about it, accepted the doctrine as it has come to be understood.

 Astral Body and Ghost, Austin Osman Spare

Astral Body and Ghost by Austin Osman Spare

The modern notion of reincarnation owes to the classical interpretation of a doctrine shrouded in mystery. If we look at the context of the time in which the classical interpretation emerged then reincarnation becomes less mysterious. The doctrine coincided with the rise of ascetic patriarchal cults. It coincided with the time when priestesses of the elder Gods were thrown out of the temples or forced into prostitution. It coincided with the Zealots and Pharisees demanding obedience to religious law and the falsification of biblical scriptures. It coincides with the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, preparing the way for the Hellenistic era and then oblivion. It coincides with the creation of extreme yoga methods aimed at physical purity. The doctrine coincides with abolition by nation states of what were already ‘the old ways’ two and a half thousand years ago, including exceedingly antique magical practices such as divination and oracles.

The thrust of classical reincarnation is that it works on a merit system. If you do good, you will achieve reincarnation in a higher life form. If you do evil, you will be reborn as a dog, a toad, a worm or a demon. This concept depends on a strictly hierarchical view of nature consisting of higher life forms and lower life forms, where man is assumed to be the pinnacle of creation. The doctrine coincides with that of spirit seen as the opposer of nature—that nature is to be overcome, to be made submissive to the superior might of man. Once we embrace the idea that the soul can be pure, then we must account for impurity and sin. Once we believe a soul can be rewarded in the afterlife then we must believe the soul can be punished for iniquity. The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 22, refutes all classical notions of purity and sin:

It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.

Liber AL vel Legis makes the case against reincarnation and in favour of eternal transcendence perfectly clear:

II: 9 Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and are done; but there is that which remains. II: 21 Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolves he shall remain in pure ecstasy forever. II: 44 Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and the eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu. II: 49 I am not of the slaves that perish. II: 66 Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our agelong love. II: 73 Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.

If consciousness is extinguished with the death of the body then our lives are a bad joke; there is no meaning or purpose in anything. That which is encrypted in Liber AL vel Legis is plainly not a doctrine of reincarnation. It is a doctrine of immortality. When the “body of the King” dissolves, that is, the human ego or ahamkhara dissolves, there is “that which remains”—the immortal principle. The popularity of classical reincarnation nonetheless continues unabated. After all, if we believe we are going to ‘come back’ over countless lifetimes, there is hardly any pressing need to do something called a Great Work.

Doctrines far more ancient than metempsychosis supposed the dead to live on in an ancestral spirit or dream world, sometimes called the underworld. The ancestral spirits could then be contacted at particular times, or when there was a need. Such practices continue to this day in some parts of the world, in the cults of Voudon, for example. The ancient Egyptians supported many doctrines, many Gods or Neters, and many pantheons. The folk tradition was not too dissimilar from other folk traditions around the world. The vital Ka or spirit body of the deceased was presumed to live on in the underworld or Duat, and offerings of food, drink and flowers were to be made regularly at the tomb to preserve the existence of the ancestors. If the offerings were not made then the Ka might become a vampire and seek sustenance from among the living.

The transcendence of the soul, the achievement of immortality, was an esoteric doctrine and not a folk tradition among the ancient Egyptians. It was preserved for pharaohs, high priests and other Initiates. Likewise with the Eastern tradition—which has it that Atman, the immortal principle, is able to reincarnate in countless different bodies and forms. The doctrine does not admit to the possibility of the soul being born again and again ‘as itself’. Hindu classical scholars are well aware of this, and are very careful when interpreting the Bhagavad Gita, for example, to point out that it is Atman that reincarnates, not the human ego—which has no essential substance or ground.

There is a magical doctrine that is, as yet, little known even among esotericists. This concerns the changing conditions of the Afterlife in different Aeons or ages of time. We have now entered, to all intents and purposes, the Age of Aquarius in terms of the astronomical precession of the equinoxes. In the symbolism of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, this equates to Hrumachis or Hormaku. Hormaku is another name for the Sphinx of Egypt or God of Two Horizons. In the current precessional age, the Sun rises in Aquarius at the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere of the globe. The sign on the Descendant is Leo the Lion – the magical “Beast” of Thelemic literature.

The sky goddess, Nuit-Babalon, is therefore the principal Neter or deity of the times. The Lion of the Night, Leo, is the deity or Neter that determines the magical conditions in the underworld—the land of the dead. There follows an extract from the magical diary Record of Frater B., 19th May 2014, which serves to convey the import of the new precessional cycle. During a magical operation to clairvoyantly skry the 13th Enochian Aethyr, ZIM, a conversation with the magical Lion or Beast of Leo transpired:

He is vast, and his eyes are terrible. He is the eater of souls, and has no mercy on the weak. He is the personification of the “battle of conquest” mentioned in Liber L … truth and swift justice now reigns in the underworld. Souls no longer wait their time, and there are few ghosts that can cling to the bosom of the earth. Rather, it is a trap in which they sink. Thus the Lion is merciless with his prey. The Wordless Aeon is a dumb aeon, seek it not! Why? – Because they wait by the door, and there is no time in which they recollect. The echoes of silence react upon blood. I will eat them.

There is a Great Work to be done. Spiritual work is meditation, and that must be done systematically, on a regular daily basis, with a method. The only measure of a magical Order is that it must consist of individuals who have pledged themselves unconditionally to helping others with the Great Work. “Self-initiation” is patently absurd; it would be as though a person can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. On the other hand doing a Great Work means cultivating the ability to work alone and in silence. For most people in the present age of machines, pharmaceutical drugs, advertising and technological hypnotism, that is impossible. They lack the will and courage to displease anyone, especially their self.

The Thelemic source work says, “The Law is for All”. Those words were misinterpreted. “All” does not mean “every”. It means that no one is excluded through race, religion, creed or status of wealth. But it does not mean everyone is going to perform something called a Great Work, or even realise there is a need to do anything. “Many are called but few are chosen”, as it is put in the book of Matthew, 22: 14. Many guests may be invited to a wedding but few will put aside their material and mundane preoccupations and turn up on the great day.

The value of Aleister Crowley is that he explained Hermetic Science in terms that could be understood by a future generation intoxicated with narcissistic self-obsession. We might otherwise have drowned amidst the idiotic noise of pop culture without any hope of reaching shore. Paradoxically, Aleister Crowley—or a cartoon caricature of the man—has been embraced by pop culture. For the most part, this means no more than wearing a t-shirt or proudly displaying a tattoo. The weakling, the drunkard, needs a hero to be stirred into action. The anti-hero is merely an elaborate hoax employed by the cynic.

There may be a greater calamity to suffer than desecration of the sacred. It is necessary to define this term, “desecration”. There is a world of difference between desecration and blasphemy. Blasphemy is a religious convention, and means “slander”. Desecration is the opposite of consecration, which means, “to reserve” or “set aside” for a special purpose. Something desecrated is simply not special anymore; a thing is, or has become, commonplace. We are not going to offend any God by psychologising the mysteries or making capital by trivialising them. If we believe that nothing is sacred, then nothing will be sacred for us. This has no effect on spiritual Reality but it does have a real impact on oneself, for it sets a limit on the Eternal. In the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, such limitation is called the Sin of Restriction:

I: 41 The word of Sin is Restriction. O man! refuse not thy wife, if she will! O lover, if thou wilt, depart! There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse. Accurséd! Accurséd be it to the aeons! Hell.

How then, may we do a Great Work? The preceding verse describes three grades or spiritual types:

I: 40 Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The Man of Earth grade corresponds to the dogmatic and literal interpretation of scriptures and other codified precepts for moral governance as typified by the world religions. In secular societies, obedience to scriptural law has been transferred to the belief that material science can explain existence through linear causation. Scriptural law and rationalism are creeds equally based on arbitrary values. In both cases, obedience is an absolute requirement for citizenship. From the point of the Lover and Hermit, the Man of Earth dwells in an unhappy state of ignorance and unknowing. The grade of the Lover embraces the practice and understanding of the universal symbolism and language of the mysteries. This begins with acquiring an intellectual understanding of the work. Understanding in the full sense of the word cannot be gained at this level.

The grade of the Hermit corresponds to Gnosis or direct insight through meditation and theurgic practices. From the point of view of religion and material science, Gnosis constitutes sin or error, for clairvoyance in the true sense of the word—“seeing things clearly”—has always contradicted religious and scientific dogma. From about half way through the first millennium BCE magical practices were gradually outlawed by emerging nation states. In the Western world material science has now largely usurped the role of religion in defining what must be believed—and therefore, obeyed. The key to overcoming religious and scientific dogma and obtaining Gnosis is simple. Yet only the brave will dare turn that key in the lock of the mystery door, for it requires turning one’s back on many comforting delusions to seek Reality. As put in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 25:

Ye are against the people, O my chosen!

View the book, The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity

© Oliver St. John 2015

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Crisis of the Modern Age - René Guenon and the Law of Thelema

René Guenon had a far-reaching vision. His life covered a critical turning point in history, encompassing great changes. With the book, Crisis of the Modern Age, Guenon was seeing what he called the Kali Yuga, the ending of a Great Aeon or Mahayuga, and the sinking into dissolution of all real knowledge. René Guenon died in 1951 and could not have foreseen exactly how things would turn out half a century later. Yet much of what he wrote concerning the distortion of symbol, language and the meaning of things, the loss of tradition, everywhere prevails.

The Ten of Swords from the pop-art Neuzeit Tarot (Walter Wegmüller, AG Muller 1982)

Ten of Swords Neuzeit Tarot

—The card depicts ten swords, bearing nonsensical motifs and depending from a crazy carousel. The masses look on, enthralled by the illusion or otherwise self-absorbed. Grasping hands vainly reach upwards. Reason has become indistinguishable from the absurd and the irrational.

The Kali Yuga, according to Hindu scriptures, is the “Age of the Demon”. The “demon” is the force that opposes all spiritual knowledge, bringing on a long Dark Age of materiality. With the culmination of Kali Yuga comes the final dissolution, preparing the way for the birth of a new Mahayuga cycle. Lasting for more than 6000 years, Kali Yuga comes as the fourth and final phase in a Great Aeon. The working out of these ages of time by Eastern philosophers seems to have incorporated full knowledge of the astronomical precession of the equinoxes. According to the astronomer and sage, Aryabhatta, writing fifteen centuries ago, Kali Yuga began around 3000 BCE. We have more than a thousand years of Kali Yuga before a new Golden Age dawns; by that time there will be nothing left of our present civilisation.

Aleister Crowley’s theory of three Great Aeons is very unsatisfactory, as evidenced by his garbled account of it in The Book of Thoth. Crowley tried, unconvincingly, to equate his aeonic theory with the precession of the equinoxes, though he did note that we are now entering the precessional Age of Aquarius—a mere 2000 years in the great precessional cycle of 26,000 years. The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, has very little to say about aeons or ages of time; there is no account in the book of any New Aeon. The passage that refers to Aleister Crowley as “the prophet”, Liber AL I: 26, was expressing Crowley’s own thoughts and questions on the book—he gave himself that appointment. In the same verse Crowley appealed to Nuit for “a sign”. That is, he sought a sign or token of his own supreme authority. It becomes clear that while receiving and recording the transmission, Crowley’s meditation was constantly disturbed by his desire to resurrect the fragmented Order of the Golden Dawn with himself as leader. He thus misconstrued the book’s true import.

However, if we study the Egyptian Book of the Law in the light of the precessional ages, of which the last is the apocalyptic Kali Yuga, it becomes clear that, so far as the book is concerned with time at all, it describes the present time as the final phase of the dissolution of a Great Aeon, a Mahayuga. The book then provides the keys for an Initiate to survive the dissolution in spiritual terms. We must exercse careful discernment when studying this book since while the divine revelation concealed in the text did not spring from the mind of Aleister Crowley, there is much other content that did, or that was influenced by his insistent thoughts and demands.

The talisman that unlocked the 93 Thelemic Current, to unleash on Aleister and Rose Crowley in a hotel room in Cairo in 1904, was the Stele of Revealing, discovered in the Museum of Cairo by Rose. It was, as we all surely know by now, the funeral stele of an Egyptian high priest that served in the Temple of Karnak in Thebes, around 700 BCE, and named Ankh af-na-khonsu, “Life and Soul of Khonsu”. Khonsu is the Egyptian deity or Neter revered at Thebes, and particularly associated with the Moon. The Moon was in turn associated with the counting of time. There is no need to go further into the historical details here. What is important is that the spiritual law encrypted in the funeral stele of Ankh af-na-khonsu came near the end of the long ages of ancient Egyptian civilisation. In another thousand years the language would be completely forgotten. Even by Hellenistic times, the old Gods of Egypt would only be studied academically by Egyptian priests. Aleister Crowley’s reception of the Book of the Law in 1904 coincided simultaneously with the death of the Romantic era in Europe and the unmitigated onslaught of a Dark Age more terrible than any other—a time in which countless numbers of human beings on earth would be crushed by mechanised industrial warfare on a vast scale. When nations are not directly concerned with industrial subjugation or mass extermination of their own species the war becomes one where the weapons are either psychological or clandestine. We have arrived at the present time.

One idea unique to the Western Mystery Tradition is that one can live an ordinary life, or a ‘normal existence’, and do ritual and meditation for an hour or so a day over a prolonged period of time. One ought to be able to engage with the world and worldly concerns, work for a living, and even maintain a family. One need not become an effete spiritual recluse incapable of taking a bus somewhere or managing ordinary things. The methods of training have been in use for about a century, where the person keeps a daily diary Record of their spiritual and magical work. Aleister Crowley, writing seventy years ago, said:
There are very few people today who have heard of Plato and Aristotle. Not one in a thousand, perhaps ten thousand, of those few have ever read either of them, even in translations. But there are also very few people whose thinking, such as it is, is not conditioned by the ideas of those two men.[1]
The italics, “such as it is”, are mine, not those of the author. I wish to draw attention to the fact that Aleister Crowley was observing a decline in the ability of people to think coherently. In the twenty-first century there are now very few persons capable of concentrating their minds on one thing to the exclusion of all else. People now spend more time at work in a job, or two or three jobs, than at any other time in history. A few decades ago there was a lot of talk about how things would be in the future. Everyone imagined that people would have more leisure time. Machines would take care of mundane tasks, or accelerate tasks so people had more time to themselves.

That future has arrived now, and the opposite has occurred. With the sovereign role now played by Information Technology, many people spend hours a day looking at virtual displays on a phone, tablet or computer. They listen to digital ‘music’ in headphones while they are performing various tasks—a degradation of both music and listener. Their consciousness is buried beneath multiple layers of wallpaper distractions. Whereas at one time a person undergoing Hermetic training had to learn how to control their own thought, the information addict is already the slave of everyone else’s thoughts, however banal. Literature is being replaced by digital images and icons. No matter how high the resolution, a digital image can never be more than dots creating an illusion of form and space. Virtual reality is a lie; the software illusion is not “near” reality, it has nothing to do with it. The same applies to digital music, film and television.

I am told by business professionals that very few people will actually read the present article. Though it might score millions of website ‘hits’, I understand that most people do not actually read the information on websites or other forms of digital media. What they do is ‘scan’ the information—the person runs their eye quickly down the content, searching for something that might ‘grab them’. Businesses make large amounts of money from mouse clicks. There is no need to think. No precious time in which to calculate the loss of a thing that cannot be bought or sold, a thing that once lost is lost forever. It is no longer about thought or imagination, which takes far too much effort. It is about comfortable self-identification. Corporations do not make profit from moral and intellectual strength; they make profit from moral and intellectual weakness.

Absorption in the digital delusion kills the intellectual and imaginative faculty that is needed in magical or spiritual practice. Although the pursuit of magick and mysticism was always for a small minority of persons, it has become more difficult because of the way the modern world has turned out. However, it has always taken great moral courage to get anywhere with real magick. The courage to stand against the flow of fashion, to resist the mundane world and the pressures it places, the tendency towards the economically driven distraction and diversion in things alternately banal or horrifying. To paraphrase Aleister Crowley, one must earn the right to do Yoga by managing one’s time and life to make room for it in the first place.

One of René Guenon’s central themes when commenting on the modern age was what he called “anti-initiation”. If Initiation can be the transmission of knowledge, then there has to be an equal and opposite idea. Guenon observed a powerful movement against Initiation in the modern world. He denounced many of the occult traditions from which we have taken influence. That clearing away, the denunciation of all that was not harmonious in his universe, was part of René Guenon’s personal Initiation, and yet what he wrote has universal implications. Guenon could have little idea, at that time, of the massive rise of popular culture that took place in the 60s and 70s and that has continued onward to the present day. Pop culture, with all its genres and fashion cults, is a powerful force against Initiation, real knowledge and meaningful tradition. Advertising, television and social media are all forces against Initiation, whether blindly or no.

Guenon was seeing the emergence of what we may now term as the New Age movement. The New Age is a general term that includes many quasi-spiritual ‘paths’ that lead nowhere but to dispersion of the mind and the wasting of the soul. Yet they all claim to confer magical powers, ‘healing’, self-mastery and even spiritual enlightenment.

More insidiously—though it is openly supported by pop culture and New Age spirituality—there is now a very disturbing movement of anti-intellectualism in the West. Anti-intellectualism and fascism have always gone hand in hand. The blinding of words by the confusion of language has always served fascism and the anti-intellectual movement. That service is done in the name of freedom, in the name of equality and in the name of individualism—even where there is no real individuality, no freedom and no social justice.

The Real is eternally true. Human reason and ego does not touch it, for these have no ground in the Real. Every mystic tradition for thousands of years has told us that. Civilisations rise and fall—history tells us that. The present technological age will certainly come to an end—everything does. None of that makes any difference to the Real, and what is eternally true. One must be very careful not to fall into despair. That is a false trail, for despair is itself a force of anti-initiation.

There is still plenty of the natural world left, although it is fast declining under the advance of human technological and industrial totalitarianism. If we switch off our digital devices, phones, computers and other gadgets, leave our urban environments and go to the woods, the sea—if we learn to understand the language of birds and wild creatures, come to understand the subtle vibrations of plants and trees, of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars—then we will be closer at least to the Real, to something truly authentic. No man, not even the greatest thinker, philosopher, guru or mage, can prevent the Sun from rising and setting or command the Moon to change her course. No one can start or stop the revolution of the Great Wheel of the Aeons. What we can do is prepare ourselves spiritually so that, like the Egyptian high priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu, we may “open the doors of Nuit”.[2]


[1] The Book of Thoth, pp. 33.
[2] Part of the inscription on the funeral stele of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, reads, “Lord of Thebes, the Opener of the Doors of Nuit in Karnak, Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the Justified.”

© Oliver St. John 2015

Monday, 15 June 2015

Magick of Earth and Stars

The Hermetic Qabalah has developed into a modern and universally applicable system of magick and yoga. It has not been necessary to change either the sephiroth or the paths of the Tree of Life to realise the powerful magical and yogic applications of the Pythagorean model. The changes to the allocations of Tarot trumps to the paths introduced by Aleister Crowley have proved to be more than adequate.[1] We have modified some of the divine names that are keys to the inner working of the Qabalah so the magical systems that have their basis in the Qabalah become harmonious. It is not wise to invoke the monotheistic God of Judaeo-Christian scriptures and then proceed to invoke ancient Egyptian, Phoenician and Assyrian deities. Certainly, this has been attempted for more than a century since the most recent occult revival, but it is akin to playing a piano by bashing it with a lump hammer.

At this point, an enquiry naturally arises. Why should occultists based in Europe, Australia and the United States, perform yoga and magical rites that involve the calling in of deities whose natural home is ancient Egypt and the Middle East? This is a valid question to ask, and the enquiry can take us down some interesting avenues of exploration. After the death of Dion Fortune (Violet Firth), her Society of Inner Light introduced a strict rule for their students that only the Gods of ancient Britain should be worked with. This is usually taken to mean Celtic deities, although scholars have argued that the deities of the Anglo-Saxons have as much right to be regarded in this light.[2] The idea is that one should work with the spiritual and natural forces of one’s native land. On the face of it this rule seems to originate from Nationalism, but there is sound reasoning behind it.

Local deities, whose worship continued for many thousands of years until it began to be suppressed by religious monotheists some 1500 years ago, were rooted deep in the land itself. The genius loci, the spirit or atmosphere of a particular place or terrestrial location, evolved through magical manipulation to become the complex Neteru or Principles as exemplified by the ancient Egyptian Gods. The Egyptians called the shrines nome centres, and there may be an etymological connection with that word and the well-known earth elementals of European folk traditions.

Over time, many of the nome centres developed into large temple complexes, even cities. There were 42 of these nome centres in Egypt, 20 in the North and 22 in the South. The principal centres followed the course of the river Nile from the hot desert lands of the South to the swampy delta region. As the Nile mirrored the celestial Milky Way, so the earth locations were associated with star systems.

The association of nomes and Neters with the stars was not, however, a product of evolution, it had more to do with involution—going back, returning to the source. For this reason, Egyptian hieroglyphics always look backward, not forward. The ancient Egyptians did not share modern conventional delusions concerning ‘progress’. There is one hieroglyph, though, that does not look backward or forward, and that is the hieroglyph for a location or place. The circle-cross is the earliest form of the tau-cross, “the mark”.

X Marks the Spot!

Hieroglyph for the Mark or Crossing

Spots and stars are cognate terms in the language of ancient Egypt, and it is for this reason the starry goddess was depicted as spotted, or as dressed in the skin of a spotted beast. The earliest magical cults on earth are known to have been guided and instructed by the Moon and the stars. The circle-cross, where two or more co-ordinates meet to define and locate an event, marks a nativity or crossing from one world or plane of existence to another. A nexus of supersensitive threads within a wider matrix coalesce here to yield their secrets in the crossing. Whoever crosses is changed by the event in its finality. In practice, the secrets are revealed over time as the word from the matrix is assimilated. Such knowledge is formed both within and outside of temporal conditions. The magical memory is the means and the basis of such congress between planes of existence, subtly infused by and ultimately revealing the stellar Gnosis beyond matter.

Location, in the magical sense, refers to an aperture in the Astral Light fixed by the willed intent of the practitioner and opened by communication with the Holy Guardian Angel or celestial counterpart. Such a location may be anchored to an earthly one charged with elemental potency, such as a nome centre, a standing stone or well. A terrestrial location becomes an aperture between the worlds when memory is carried or conveyed by the spirit or intelligence of the magical operation.

The naming of a place provides a vital clue to its occult potential, as does the geological structure and position relative to the appearance of Sun, Moon and stars as they trace their celestial paths through a terrestrial year, irradiating and magnetising it through each circle of time. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the eternal is the shen ring carried by the vulture, Mut. The shen has every meaning of hovering or alighting like a bird, circling or going around. The circling thus defines the mark of the place or mark of the beast. The vulture is an apt totem, for in consuming death she gives life to the spirit.

The Egyptian Shen Ring carried by the Vulture Mut or Nekhebit

Egyptian Shen Ring carried by Mut

The crossing points or events in time become magnetically sealed in the memory of the place and held by the beasts or creatures that are attracted to it through their likeness. Some of these creatures act as elemental guardians, warding off all forces that are inimical. Hence the symbol of the circle-cross was depicted as being held by the fierce lioness goddess Sekhet, and was also inscribed upon amulets for protection against the hostile forces of the underworld.

The Egyptian goddess Taweret, also associated with the mark of the beast, was the image placed at the North Pole and celestial centre of the universe in Egyptian astronomical centres. She is thus the ultimate crossing point, and is the keeper of the net or network of stresses that form the matrix and the Ring-Pass-Not of the Abyss in Qabalistic terms.

Like the chakras of Eastern Laya or Kundalini Yoga, the nomes were first and foremost etheric locations when associated with the local deities. One of the differences between the Hermetic Tantra-yoga of the West and Laya Yoga of the East is that the latter works on the etheric plane while the former is operated on the astral plane. The etheric plane is the closest non-physical or subtle plane to matter. For this reason, the chakras in the Laya Yoga system are related to physical organs and glands, even the endocrine system, and have elemental correspondences.

The chakras of Hermetic Qabalah, on the other hand, are corresponded to the planets. Every physical object or body has an etheric counterpart, and this applies equally to geographical locations. The etheric counterpart may best be thought of as a network of subtle electromagnetic stresses that, while not having physical substance, weave around and interact with matter. The practice of Laya Yoga naturally begins with the earth or base chakra. The power is then worked upwards through each chakra in turn. Hermetic Tantra-yoga is not dissimilar, but we begin by drawing down the celestial power from the stars, along the path called the Lightning Flash on the Tree of Life, before drawing the occult force upwards again. The etheric plane is also involved, but in a less direct fashion as we work primarily from the astral or Yetziratic level as it is called in the Qabalah.

In modern towns and cities the genius loci may persist, but through millennia of neglect and urban development it is often relegated to subterranean vaults deep below the pavement and concrete structures. Such spirits may account for some of the hauntings and other supernatural phenomena still encountered, though increasingly rarely, by citizens who have retained something of the psychic faculties of their ancestors.

Our Foundation Temple in Southwest England is dedicated to Babalon, a deity whose cult centre once extended from what is now known as Iraq to Arabia and the land of Egypt. A short time ago a shrine to Isis was excavated in the middle of London, and her artefacts were discovered in an ancient cave alongside Celtic artefacts dating from the same time. In the present age, our magical work is to reach out to the stars. Seen from afar, the earth is a pinpoint of blue light among countless stars and galaxies.

This is not to deny the importance of sending roots down into the earth upon which our physical shells live and move and have their being. Working with the shape, form and invisible spirit of the place where we live is a key principle in the Tantrik arts. If we travel far enough towards the heavens, we find that all of time and space is within equal reach. If we dig down deep enough, then we find the sun-star that burns at the core of the earth is equally distant from any location on the surface of the planet. Our magical system is a universal one, and as we can reach out to any star in the cosmos, so we must extend our reach to every corner of the globe.

The Hermetic Tree of Life in the divine world of Atziluth (Restored)

Reformed Table of Atziluth (Ordo Astri)

The Qabalah of the Earth and Stars

1. We do not invoke the Judaic and Masonic Tetragrammaton IHVH. The Hermetic Tetragrammaton is ShMATh (Shematah).

2. In Chokmah we invoke the Gnostic IAO, and this name is used with other deity names in place of the biblical demiurge Tetragrammaton.

3. We have restored our Lady of the Stars to her proper place as the divine name in Kether, AShRH (Asherah).

4. There has been some rebalancing of the male and female deities. The goddess Asherah (Elat Asherah) is the Axis, Sacred Bough or Pole of the Universe, and the original Tree of Life from which the gods were sprung. Her Egyptian name Qutesh means, “The Holy One”. AShRH has the Qabalistic value of 506, which is a number of Nuit as well as the number derived from the riddle of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 46. The art of the Qabalah transforms 506 into 210 or absolute zero (000), the secret that is obtained by following the word back into the mouth of Kether. The number 506 is that of KPVTh, “palms of the hands; palm leaves or branches”. The palm of the hand is the meaning of the letter Kaph, a letter sometimes used to represent Spirit (see the Pentagrammaton below). As the Wheel of Force, Kaph is the chakra of Asherah or Nuit-Babalon, the wheel from which all of life is spun with the thread of the worlds. Palm leaves and branches are sacred to Asherah, one of whose epithets is “The Happy One”. Palm branches were used by the Egyptians and others to mark time by the course of the Moon with notches, and this is probably the true origin of the Christian “Palm Sunday”.

IAO means “Immortal”. The clue to the origins of IAO, which has been much misunderstood by occultists, is given at the end of the first book of the Gnostic Christian scripture known as Pistis Sophia. It is revealed more clearly when the name is written in Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

ALHIM means “Gods (male and female)”. The name Elohim is used at the beginning of the biblical book of Genesis to describe “God” as creator of the world. In fact, the name originally referred to Elat Asherah and her male consort EL (or AL). In Daath, the divine name IAO ALHIM means (therefore), “Immortal Gods”.

The polar relationship between Kether and Malkuth is important to the Qabalah in theory and in practice. The above schema restores the primal pair of Elat Asherah and Adonai. Adonai or Ba’al (“Lord”) is both the only begotten son and the lover or consort of the Creatrix. The primal mother conceives by a star, her manifestation. The ancient doctrine is given throughout the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, in the love-play between Nuit and Hadit, whose “house” is the Khabs in the Khu, the star in the company of heaven that is at the same time the body of Nuit.

The great lie of monotheism was that a heavenly father could give birth to all of creation. The Gnostics intuited this, though they did not know it (judging by their scriptures), when they posited that Jahweh (IHVH) of the old testament books was a usurper, an evil demiurge.

The Hermetic Tetragrammaton ShMATh (Shematah)

Hermetic Tetragrammaton ShMATh
ShMATh (Shematah) means The Name, and is the word of ΙΑO, the Beginning and the End (ATh). ShMATh is the Immortal Essence realised in the flesh, and the perfected word of MAAT.

ShMATh has the Qabalistic value of 741, equal to AMN, “artist or master”. The number 741 is also equal to the Greek ouranon, “celestial”, and katadesis, “spells and enchantments”. It is also that of oratos, “visible”, indicative that the Neters or Gods are everywhere evident in visible nature.

The Hermetic Pentagrammaton

Hermetic Pentagrammaton AMShRTh 

AMShRTh (Ameshratah) has the meaning, “Master of Truth”, since the word combines AMTh (441), “Truth” with ShR (500), “Master”. AMTh, 441, is a numerical temurah of the AZVTh or Quintessence, 414. The Master, as ShR, is equal to the letter kaph spelled in full. Kaph is the letter of the Wheel of Force (Tarot Atu X) that is sometimes used as the letter of Spirit. The value of kaph as 20 is equal to the Trump of The Aeon XX, Fire and Spirit.

AMShRTh has the Qabalistic value of 941, equal to the Greek Call of Pan, IO PAN! The number 941 is also that of the Latin vespera, Venus as the Evening Star which was anciently associated with the pentagram. AMShRTh is a metathesis of MShRATh, 941, the name of the Angel ruling the first decanate of Sagittarius, emblematic of the Holy Guardian Angel. If the letters are arranged in the order of the four worlds of the Qabalah, then AMShRTh becomes ShMRATh, “perfect or beautiful name”.


[1] The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57: “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.” The Star XVII of Aquarius is placed on the 15th path and The Emperor IV of Aries to the 28th path. The Hebrew letters do not change positions, only the Tarot trumps and associated correspondences.

[2] See Anglo-Saxon Runes by T. Linsell. 

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© Oliver St. John 2014, 2017

This article was first published in Fortified Island, Journal of the Irish Order of Thelema, Autumn Equinox Anno IV-1 (2014). It is also included in the book, Liber 373 Astrum Draconis.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Witches Sabbath and the Curse of Monotheism

Since podcasting Kenneth Grant and the Witches Sabbath, I have appreciated more fully the accuracy of Grant’s insight into the corrupted symbolism of medieval Witchcraft. The moment that men began to claim to be Gods—to personalise the divine power as manifested through astral and elemental forces—was the moment that men ceased to be Gods. As Kenneth Grant indicated in his monograph, as soon as men claimed the power for themselves they had to create theologies of good and evil to explain the dichotomy of disruptive or immoral forces within the self. The personalisation of divine power took place simultaneously with the invention of monotheism. Polytheism allowed the free flow of psychic force in all its expressions, whereas the religions of the ‘one God’ restrict or curtail the psychosexual energy that informs nature and being.

God of the Monotheists: Star and Snake Thelema Blogspot

The advent of monotheism—God-made-in-man’s-image—began around 500–600 BC. At that time, the rulers of emerging nation states with growing populations required a national identity that was previously lacking or non-existent. The kings and military generals sought to centralise all spiritual and magical practice so that it could be controlled. Thus, there came into being churches and synagogues, for example—state sanctioned places of worship. It was the birth of what is now called “religion”. Previous to that time, there was no word for “religion” in any language. The new religious concept assisted in the collection of taxes as well as providing a useful means whereby the identity of citizens could be recorded and checked, their whereabouts traced.

Through reigns of terror and oppression over almost eight centuries, reluctant populations were finally forced to accept monotheism. The means that governors and rulers employed to bring this about was a degraded version of ancient Egyptian Pharaonic Law. The kings and queens of Egypt were not worshipped as deities in themselves. They were, like the high priests, vessels of the divine power. This idea is greatly misunderstood by historians, Egyptologists and anthropologists, for, as with their theologian forebears, they confuse the symbol with that which it represents.

At the very beginnings of religious monotheism, local kings and generals began to ape the ways of the Egyptians. Seeing in those old ways a means of gaining unlimited power for themselves they pretended to be the voice and word of God in the flesh. Scriptures were faked to gain support (and provide money through taxation) for the next war against the Assyrians or Babylonians, for example. Thus, such ‘foreign’ nations—as they were by that time—are scathingly condemned in the books of the biblical Old Testament. The thunder rolls on for chapter and verse, against pagan “idolaters”, and those who worship “false gods”. All magical practices are of course, forbidden. The most venemous tirades are directed against the ancient Goddess that we call Babalon, known variously as Asherah, Ishtar, Astarte or Ashtaroth.

There were political reasons for this; it was not prejudice or bigotry alone that guided the hands of the scribes who wrote the ‘word of God’. Previous to state monotheism, the people worshipped in their own homes, or in ancient locations outside. They did magick, obtained oracles and omens, and the Initiated among them were able to mediate astral and elemental power. With monotheism came the need for strict obedience to scriptural laws, which included the prohibition of all magical practices. When people did magick for themselves, obtained direct insight into the otherworld, their findings naturally contradicted scriptural laws, which were man-made. This caused unrest. For many centuries, successive rulers and governments have therefore produced legislation to control religious worship and censure magical practices. The institution of marriage, for example, was originally tied up with the Church. Even modern secular marriage is to ensure that citizens will be cooperative with the paying of taxes when their sexual relations are legitimised in the community and sanctioned by the state. Once sex, birth, death and the afterlife are controlled and taxed by the state, the old ways of magical and occult practices, even if they endure, cease to be a threat to governmental control of expanding populations and territories.

I am not in any way suggesting there was any kind of a Golden Age existing before 500 BC—a romantic fantasy of pagan Gods and Goddesses presiding over long ages of joy, happiness and innocence. It would be nice if there were something like that, but all the historical evidence so far is to the contrary. The bashed in skulls amidst hundreds or thousands of deadly arrowheads is a depressingly common ‘find’ on archeological digs. Man, it seems, is a bloodthirsty, greedy and insane species of animal.

Atheists, materialists, and those in the esoteric communities will be more or less comfortable with what I am saying here regarding the history of theology. However, with or without religion, the entire economic world system of money, debt and the payment of debt, is part of the same theology. We could as much call it the theology of money as the theology of religion.

It is no coincidence that the theology of sin, guilt, shame and fear—and consequently, the so-called redemption or salvation from these evils—arose at the same time that early banking systems were being developed. “Redemption” means, literally, “to redeem (or pay off) a debt.” Although lending and borrowing exists in observable nature at the atomic level, for example—something that I described in detail in my book, The Law of Thelema—sin and guilt and vicarious sacrifice do not. Those things are purely man-made devices or concepts.

While there may never have been a Golden Age for Homo sapiens (so-called), the Hermetic tradition has always aimed at universality. Prior to the compulsory superimposition of monotheistic religion, the magical and spiritual practices of different races and cultures were freely shared and understood. This was one reason why state controlled religion became necessary for the control of expanding populations. How can you get the people to pay for the next war against their neighbours when the people know that Ashtaroth is the Egyptian name for Ishtar, and that Dagon is the Babylonian or Assyrian name for Amoun or Sut-Typhon? Religion, in its apparently utopian aim of unification, has always resulted in division and conflict.

In ancient Alexandria, magical knowledge was freely shared and became part of the Initiated traditions that are held in common by many races and creeds. Alexandria is the spiritual home and birthplace of the magical Order, as that has come to be known in the Hermetic tradition. That is the tradition that we continue to develop, though we wish to liberate it as much as possible from the errors and confusion of monotheistic theology. Getting back to the pre-religious roots of magical and spiritual practice is vital if we want to allow the 93 Current of Thelema full expression. In so doing, we have a chance of creating ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ that does not rest on the errors of monotheism. The karmic consequences of making profit from sin and debt have clung to the world like a poisonous fog for over two and a half millennia. The 93 Current of love under will is the antidote.

© Oliver St. John 2015

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Magical Pathworking on the Tree of Life

The number 22 is that of the paths of the Serpent of Wisdom—the ascending current that is the foil to the downward striking celestial Mezla typified by the Lightning Flash. While there is a plethora of books dealing with pathworkings of the Tree of Life, much of it is quite dismal stuff. The guided visualisation technique has, to say the least, been somewhat over used since it gained popularity with the New Age boom of the 1980s and 1990s. Even some of the better known works spoon-feed the novice with an unwieldy hotchpotch of various mythologies spiced with pop psychology and, in one case at least, a lamentably crude, outdated anthropological view of human evolution. Worst of all, the guided visualisations do not only tell us what we should be seeing, but also tell us what we should be feeling and experiencing.

The popular mode of pathworking operation has little, if anything, to do with the original method developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and based on the ancient Egyptian magick. The hieroglyphs are not merely symbols, but are, or become, that which they represent. This is called “pathworking” because the ritual involves a clairvoyant exploration of the 22 paths, or modes of consciousness, of the Hermetic Tree of Life. There are no scripts, narratives or mythological storytelling scenarios. I shall describe here the real magical method of pathworking.

The beauty of this is in the simplicity: The symbolism to be employed is exactly as the Hermetic Tree of Life model looks on the printed page of a book. Take the 32nd path as an example. Malkuth is a circle, and the lines of the path run from there to Yesod, another circle:

Magical Pathworking: Correspondences on the Tree of Life

The image of the 32nd path is the Tarot trump, The Universe XXI:

Magical Pathworking: Crowley Thoth Tarot Atu The Universe XXI

From the beginning, when we are ascending the path, the ‘entrance’ is the Hebrew letter, Tav:

Magical Pathworking: The Hebrew letter TAV

Towards the end of the path is the astroglyph of Saturn:

Magical Pathworking: Symbol of Saturn

The primary symbols can be translated into a workable praxis. Firstly, though, it is no use approaching this as though we were attending the theatre, or sitting down to watch a movie. This is not passive entertainment, and if anything it is the exact reverse of that which many people in the world now spend an inordinate amount of time doing: gazing at virtual images and icons, whether static or mobile, and clicking them with a mouse or tapping them with a finger to prompt some kind of activity. Magick is an intensely active business, and one must engage the whole of one’s being and all the powers of concentration available. The magician must exalt his or her consciousness. We have many and various means by which this can be accomplished, set forth, for example, in Hermetic Qabalah Initiation Workbook.

When the right conditions have been established, and consciousness transferred to the desire body or astrosome, we can send that shining body to the Temple of Malkuth. Like the diagrams of the Tree of Life, the Temple has three portals or doorways in the North, corresponding to the paths of Tav, Shin and Qoph. Between the two pillars is the doorway to the 32nd path of Tav. This illustration of the Temple of Malkuth from the Neophyte grade knowledge in Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light will suit the purpose very well:

The Neophyte Temple of Malkuth from Ritual Magick, Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light

There are various ways in which this can be done, but it is simple and effective to see a luminous veil covering the door, which has the image of the Tarot trump on it. Astrally tracing the flaming letter Tav then acts as a key to pass the threshold. Once on the other side of the door, the inner senses must fully replace their physical counterparts. Not only do we desire to see into the path, but also we want to hear it, touch it, feel it and smell it with our subtle or non-physical senses. Before projecting the body of light, we have prepared our physical senses by burning the appropriate incense, and by gathering together the various colours and other magical correspondences of the 32nd path.[1]

As with the kind of meditation practice where the mind is trained to orbit a symbol, key word or phrase, any thoughts or impressions that cannot strictly be related to the subject are sent back to the void from whence they have arisen. This is not an exercise in whimsical daydreaming, where the mind is allowed to go where it will. The experience of the path should correspond with the recognised symbolism, the keys of the path. This can be checked later when reviewing the diary Record. Towards the end of the path, a distant symbol or image that corresponds to Yesod, the Temple of the Moon, will be seen. This is always the point of return. The sephiroth are paths in themselves; one path at a time is enough.


[1] Some intelligent adaptation is required for the tables of Aleister Crowley’s 777, which is the standard textbook for Qabalistic correspondences. Traditionally, the 32nd path corresponds, via its astroglyph, Saturn, to noxious odours. It would be pointless to poison oneself with sulphur or choke on the smoke of asafoetida! Any ‘austere’ or ‘dark’ smelling fragrance will do. Myrrh is bittersweet incense that will help evoke the higher aspects of Saturn without causing anyone to become asphyxiated. The 32nd path has an earthy association, and so the incense or oil of patchouli could also be used, for example. When in doubt, use grains of pure frankincense, the universal fragrance for ritual magick.

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© Oliver St. John 2015

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Dual Nature of the Soul

In Chapter Nineteen of Dion Fortune’s novel, The Sea Priestess, her central character reveals the Hermetic doctrine concerning the human Soul. There follows here our development and magical expansion of that, and the Circuits of Force—two ideas central to the magical work of Dion Fortune and of Ordo Astri.

The Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Atu XIV depicts the Holy Guardian Angel as an androgyne performing a work of transmutation upon the soul:

Art XIV Thoth Tarot card

Male and female have specific functions in magick. The Egyptian story of creation always depicts male and female pairs of deities that are personifications of the original or primal pair, Nuit and Hadit. If we reduce magical polarity to simple magnetism then there is only active and passive—power in action and power latent. The duality can be likened to a positive or negative magnetic charge. The female is negative on the plane of matter, while the male is positive. On the astral plane, she is positive while he is negative. On each subsequent plane, the polarity changes places, as consciousness ascends from matter to spirit. To put this in ceremonial terms, the priestess magnetically draws the power from the priest, who must direct that power towards the Shakti that is veiled by the actual human form of the priestess. A Circuit of Force is set up between male and female practitioners.

Magical Polarity

According to the ancients, everything that is visible belongs to the material world. Everything that is invisible belongs to the spiritual world.

In every being there are two aspects: positive and negative; dynamic and receptive; male and female. The dual aspects can be summarised and glyphed as Sol and Luna, the Sun and the Moon.

The duality is manifested in the physical body. The sex is determined according to which aspect is dominant and which aspect is recessive.

The Soul is bisexual. As one or the other aspect manifests in the world of form, the alternative aspect is latent in the world of spirit (and so invisible).

Each person freely shows forth either the Sol or Luna nature. The aspect that is latent only comes forth when it is evoked (summoned, called forth). The greater part of the nature of every person is the side that is latent, unexpressed.

Generally, in the male it is the dynamic will (or solar nature) that is expressed, while the spiritual nature is latent, unexpressed, invisible and requiring evocation. In the female, it is the spiritual (or lunar) nature that is expressed freely, while the dynamic will is negative, and requires evocation.

The nodes forming the framework of intelligence for human beings as they go about their daily lives are very close to the surface. In most cases they are little more than patterns of behaviour that mask purely automatic functions. The magician, on the other hand, willingly and consciously ‘raises the voltage’, and in every way deepens the well from which knowledge is drawn. The transmission of the ‘93’ consciousness current in magical practice is a communication from one node of Deep Mind to another.

The astrological natal horoscope can be used to read or determine the Soul of a person. The Sun in the natal horoscope symbolises the Dynamic Will; the Moon symbolises the Spiritual Nature. Although individual men and women will generally express one or the other side of the soul’s bisexual nature, we can all express one or the other side at different times. This means that one or the other side may require evocation before it appears or comes forth free-flowing.

It is the Task of every Student of the Mysteries to Know Thyself. The secret nature is that which is latent, invisible, spiritual. A psychological investigation of the self has its uses, but can be a blind, or a stumbling block in the Way. We are moved and shaped by impersonal and cosmic forces. Impersonal and cosmic forces work through us to shape destiny. The causes of things are relative phenomena. All causes and all effects or results are phenomenal, and as such, form only partial truth.

The human personality, with all its perceived virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses, is not the key to the mysteries but is a veil that covers them. It is therefore best not to use astrology or self-study to track apparent causes for behavioural (or other) perceived weaknesses or defects. Do not use it either to track apparent causes for strength or virtue. Self-glorification is no better than self-abasement. All such endeavour is futile, and may even waste the life force—for paralogism is invested by the power of belief. It is an attempt to define the self by arbitrary and self-limiting values.

It is wise to examine the horoscope and reduce it to the principles that drive it, that form character. Extract the symbol from the symbolic, and follow it to its source with the absolute. Commercial astrologers, spiritual healers, professional card readers and the like do this in reverse. They take the latency of the symbol and attach concrete meaning, as a form of trading currency.

The Circuits of Force

There is a footnote in Woodroffe’s seminal work, Serpent Power, describing three special points where Kundalini penetrates the aura: ajna, anahatha, muladhara. In Hermetic Tantra-Yoga, the three relevant chakras are Da’ath, Tiphereth and Yesod, corresponding to Saturn, the Sun and the Moon.

1. The Central Circuit or primary magnetic core can be symbolised by ‘93’ since the field of polarity is between Daath and Yesod, Saturn and the Moon. The Central Circuit is not changed or modified by any external influences. This conforms to the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 58:
Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, and not other.
2. The field of polarity between the primary magnetic core and the Cosmic Circuit (outermost) creates the Peripheral Circuit. The Peripheral Circuit is very sensitive to external influence; the imprint received from the Cosmos is symbolised by the astrological horoscope drawn up at the time of birth. The Peripheral Circuit equates to the six sephiroth that revolve around Tiphereth, the central Sun of the solar system—the wheels, chakras or power zones that act as nodes of communication within the electromagnetic field of the astrosome or Rainbow Aura.

3. The Cosmic Circuit is summed up in the polar field between Kether and Malkuth. These two chakras or zones are not within the astrosome, but are outside it. The incarnate magnetic core is formed by the discarnate Cosmic Circuit.

The astrosome or Rainbow Aura comes about within the field of polarity between the primary magnetic core and the Cosmic Circuit. The auric field is highly charged; it is somewhat plastic in nature and is conterminous with the astral plane. The natal horoscope is a mirror of the stellar environment at the time of birth, which was impressed by the Cosmos on to the highly sensitive Peripheral Circuit. The image of the Cosmos impressed upon the Peripheral Circuit determines how the Rainbow Aura is internally organised.

The Khabs star regulates the Central Circuit and mediates the cosmic influence (MZLA, 78) to the earth, via the Sun of our solar system. The Peripheral Circuit regulates the Rainbow Aura and the hexagram of planetary chakras grouped about Tiphereth; the Sun is the planetary Logos, the giver of life to the solar system.

The Cosmic Circuit is focused through the North Star, Kether, the head of the axis of the universe. The tail or south pole of the polar axis is symbolised by the star of Hormaku, hidden deep in the underworld or subconscious of man. Hormaku symbolises the true nature of Malkuth, the Kingdom, and is the completion of the Great Work on earth.

There is nothing more powerful than consciousness itself, which inspires such awe from human beings that they make it into a God upon which they hang their hopes and fears, their wishes and desires. That is why there are so many safeguards, preparations, purifications and consecrations, and why so much care is put into creating the magick circle – especially at the beginning of the work. It is only when the Hermetic Tree has been seeded in the astrosome of the magician, and with time, labour and care has rooted and flourished, that the rituals and practices may become a Gateway to true Knowledge.

In the Ordo Astri Hermetic Tantra-Yoga, “Lord of the South”, the chakra deities are Isa (Isis), Heru (Horus) and Ashtaroth.[1] There are three things required to engage with and align the Circuits of Force:

1. The True Will

–The power of the Inviolate Sceptre or Vajra

2. The Cosmos

–The magical environment of the magician; the Circle of the Place

3. The Chariot

–The astrosome for the magical exploration of the Cosmos

The active and dynamic aspect of the feminine True Will is initiated through the ‘93’ magnetic core or Double Wand of Power. The Tantrik Vajra is the totem of the double power, which is brought from latency to activity through the discipline of the work and development of the concentration of the mind in magical Tantra-Yoga practice.

The astrosome of the magician is the image of the solar system with Tiphereth at the centre, producing the rainbow spectrum of light from ultraviolet to infrared. The astrosome of the magician is the self in positive mode, the transmitter of the planetary logos. The formula of the astrosome is LVX, Konx Om Pax or Light In Extension.

The shade (or dark double) of the magician is symbolised by the circuit of force between Daath and Yesod, the ‘93’ source of occult knowledge. The shade of the magician is the self in negative mode, as transmitter of the Stellar Logos. The formula of the shade is the Ape of Thoth, NOX and the Night of Pan.

The positive and negative modes are not to be understood here as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. The positive mode is a centrifugal force; the negative mode is a centripetal force. The former projects outwardly, while the latter absorbs inwardly. The five radials of the Khabs star are the five senses in man, which are a window to the universe. The visible universe, however, can only act as a mirror of man and his five-fold perception.

The Circuits of Force schema reveals that human souls are imprisoned in a bubble of their own consciousness, a film projection that we take as reality. Even ordinary magical working does not penetrate beyond that bubble—the outer edge of which is referred to as the Peripheral Circuit. Journeys to explore inner space are inevitably journeys through the infinite maze of the Self, since the Self is a mirror image of the Cosmos. Astral vision, skrying or clairvoyance consists of such a journey. What is required, then, is the means to break through from the Peripheral to the Cosmic by linking all three Circuits of Force. To penetrate beyond this shell or cocoon—to escape from the mirror world generated by the Peripheral Circuit – a key is required. That key is expressed in the sevenfold spell, Love is the law, love under will. The ancient Egyptians figured it as the ankh or Key of Life. The knot or puzzle that must be solved by the key of the mysteries is the web of the worlds created by consciousness projection. The key is turned in the lock by the operation of the law of magical polarity.

The Temple of Hekate: Deep Mind

In exceedingly ancient times—aeons before even the priests of Aunnu or Heliopolis conceived nine gods in the sky-boat of Atem Ra—the company of heaven was an ogdoad. From Nu and Nuit came forth three divine couples, making eight in all: Hehu and Hehut, Kekui and Kekuit, Kerah and Kerahet.[2]

In the beginning, the heavens and the earth were raised up from the deep, boundless watery mass of the nun (Coptic νουν), the primordial abyss containing the germs of all life. The gods Nu and Nuit personify the abyss between heaven and earth and the vault of heaven respectively. Nu and Nuit were depicted in the sky-boat in familiar human form, Nu carrying a was sceptre and Nuit bearing the vessel of heaven upon her head that is both her name and her function.

The Egyptian gods are Neters, principles in nature that are real, observable, and functional. To the ancient Egyptians, physics and metaphysics expressed one truth. Nu was depicted variously as frog-headed and surmounted by a Khephra beetle, or snake-headed, while Nuit was shown as snake-headed with a scarlet sun disc, or with the head of a cat. The imagery of the swamp, on the borders of water and earth and inhabited by such creatures as the frog and snake, continued with the legend that Sebek, usually portrayed as a Nile crocodile, was the very soul of the abyss or nun.

The cat, on the other hand, typically associated with the goddess Sekhet or Bast, is not generally a creature of the swamp. While the frog and snake depict modes of consciousness going forth (i.e. in motion), the cat and the lion signify the principles of sexual heat, light and fire, and were understood to be made in the image of Ra, the Great Neter himself.

According to E. A. Wallis Budge, the rites and the elusive details of the elder gods were already long forgotten, or otherwise abolished, by the time the priests of Aunnu were at the height of their ministry.[3] An alternative explanation is that since the primal gods are less material, more abstract conceptions than the heroic deities that after long aeons superseded them, there is very little that needs to be said about them. They are better known, not described.

The scanty information that there is concerning pre-dynastic Egypt refutes any notion that ‘progress’ is a factor built in to civilisations that become larger and more complex over time. Pre-dynastic artefacts demonstrate that art, craftsmanship and technology attained a mastery of perfection that could not be reproduced in later times. We must be careful then, in observing that the frog and snake-headed deities of the abyss reflect earlier shamanistic traditions of magick and folklore. It is more accurate to assume that remnants of the science, magick and theology of a vastly antique civilisation have survived in the practices of the soothsayer, the village shaman, the snake charmer, the roller of bones.

The three pairs of gods that come forth from Nu and Nuit take on a similar if not identical appearance to that of Nu and Nuit in their animal-headed forms. Firstly come the snake or frog-headed Hehu and the cat-headed Hehut, male and female principles of air, breath or spirit. As spirit they are cognate with the Greek word pneuma. The name of Hehu is formed with the knotted hieroglyph (heh) that corresponds with an aeon, an eternity or millions of years. Hehu and Hehut are comparable to the god Shu, whom the Egyptians always depicted in an attitude with both arms raised up as though holding up the vault of heaven. The pair stands, as it were, between the heavens and the earth.

After Hehu and Hehut come the snake-headed Kekui and the frog or cat-headed Kekuit, male and female principles of the powers of light and abysmal darkness.[4] The two gods are closely identified with the Egyptian gods Ka and Kait, the dual personification of the Ka, hieroglyph of strength, vital force or power. While Kekui is the “raiser up of light”, Kekuit is the “raiser up of the night”. Kekui and Kekuit do not personify light and darkness; they are the power that calls forth light and darkness from the void. Kekui and Kekuit also mark time in a very particular sense. While Kekui represents the last hour of night before the first hour of the day, Kekuit represents the first hour of night after the last hour of the day. They are, therefore, gods of the twilight realm, the realm of neither here nor there, the gap that lies between the worlds.

After Kekui and Kekuit come the frog or snake-headed Kerah and the serpent-headed Kerahet, male and female principles of the night itself, which rules the abyss. The hieroglyphic determinative for the names Kerah and Kerahet is an extended arm with the palm of the hand facing downwards to show latent power or force contained. As with the crocodile god Sebek, who is sometimes seen as a personification of the primal Kekui, the pair is the soul of the abyss.

Material nature veils or conceals the numinous source of all. The dissolution signified by the chalice or wine cup is the tearing down of the veil of matter and form that marks the return of consciousness to the numinous source. It is this numinous source of all, of which light is but a veil, that we wish to make contact with through all the magical means at our disposal.

The Law and Operation of the Ogdoad

1. The Primary Magnetic Core is formed by the polarity between Da’ath or Saturn, the third eye chakra, and the Moon or base of the spine where the kundalini force is stored. We can give qualities to this magnetic core, but when we do we create phantoms, little devils in the light, that are only mirrors for aspects of ourselves. Such devils are neither good nor evil, but as they are derived from a partial knowledge of the self, their power to cause division in the self (and therefore harm) is strong. For that reason, it is a dangerous force for the average human being. For the Initiate, it is the beginning, the first threshold.

2. The Tree of Life necessarily depicts the material plane, and other planes above, as depending from Kether. In fact, Kether only comes about when the power of vision that resides with the Saturn or third eye chakra is seamlessly united in thought to the source, the river of life that wells upwards and is stored at the base of the spine.

3. A Circuit is formed, therefore, that passes through the base of the spine at the lower end, and through the mirror of vision at the upper—which has its physical analogy with the centre of the brain between the two hemispheres. This may be imagined as a circle of ultraviolet light.

4. The Saturn chakra is really a mirror that is turned inwards or backwards, towards the base of the spine. What is seen in the mirror of the imagination reflects the most primal upsurge from the earth, whose receptacle or chalice is at the base of the spine.

5. Every human being has an astrosome. The astrosome only attains its full power, as a vehicle of consciousness that can travel anywhere inside or outside of space and time, when the power arising from the base, which is experienced as sexual force, magnetic, is drawn into the Circuit of Force and united in vision to the Eye of the Beholder. A desire body, a body of light, then emerges.

6. The desire body is the class of phenomena that religious symbolism veils as the Holy Ghost.

7. When the mirror of vision is at one with the primal force, invisible in itself, the Primary Magnetic Core realises its identity with the absolute, the Cosmic Circuit.

8. Tiphereth is the meeting place between the magician and the priestess, a magical garden where all planes of existence converge. The convergence is as fully realised in the physical body, the flesh, as it is realised by the spirit—the indwelling presence in the astrosome or body of light. That is why the Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel corresponds to Malkuth.


[1] See Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light, (Ordo Astri). Ashtaroth, Ishtar and Astarte are different names—Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek—for our Lady BABALON, the daughter of Nuit. Note that Hathoor means, “Abode of HRU”, and that ISA, a special name of Isis, means “fragrance”.

[2] See “The Twilight Vigil”, Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light, (Ordo Astri).

[3] See The Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. I, pp. 282, E. A. Wallis Budge (Dover).

[4] This is consistent with the Sethian Gnosis in which there are three primal principles forming the womb of life, the container for all latent forms: light, darkness and spirit or fragrance—see Thrice Greatest Hermes translated by G. R. S. Mead (Kessinger Books). 

© Oliver St. John 2015