About Me

My photo

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, 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