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The man who swims in volcanos, walks on water and mixes the best Margaritas in the world. He is a founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium, and has been a member of Ordo Typhonis since 2000 e.v. Writes books on a Thelema that no beast shall divine. New articles and essays are posted at Ordo Astri and  Tantrika Books.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Babalon Unveiled!

In the region of Old Cairo, or Keraha-Babylon, there are remains of a colossus that once stood in the vicinity of the ancient Egyptian temple of Babylon. The mighty image was of Hathoor, as can be determined by the intact base of her ruined crown. By historical accounts, there is a meaningful association between Hathoor (or Isis) and the sphinx that guards the nearby pyramids. The association will become self evident as we proceed with our investigation.

Egyptian Goddess of Love Hathoor
The ancient Egyptian city of Keraha-Babylon is east of the Giza plateau, north of the modern city of Cairo. It is of great historical significance, for its situation on the Nile meant it was both port and fortified gateway to the old sacred road to On, or Heliopolis (Egyptian Aunnu). The pyramids and sphinx of the Giza plateau are in full view of the gateway to On. Additionally, the temple of Per-Hapi on the Nile port, south of Keraha, at one time contained a line of sphinxes, among other extraordinary relics found scattered throughout the region.
The name of the Sphinx of Egypt is Harmachis, as borne forth on its own stele, called the Dream Stela. The vastly antique statue depicting the woman and lion in one image is otherwise known as Hrumachis or Hormaku. The great statue of Hathoor, crowned with the sun, gazes eternally at the Sphinx of Egypt, her child-star, consort and divine image. While this may be construed metaphorically, it was a literal fact while the colossus, Babylon the Great, stood at the gates of On.

Babylon as Alchemical Catalyst

Babylon was the pre-historical name of the great centre even before it was called Keraha. The name of Babylon owes to a corruption, or linguistic simplification, of the ancient Egyptian name: pr-hpi-n-iunu, ‘Nile temple of the nome Aunnu’. A nome is an ancient Egyptian earth location regarded as sacred centre. According to the Pyramid Texts the name Keraha refers to the field of the battle between Horus and Set.

Per Het Temple of Hathoor Logogram
The battle becomes self-explanatory when it is considered that Keraha marks the exact division or boundary between the two lands of Khem, Upper and Lower Egypt. It is the geographic meeting or union of the red and white crowns of the North and South. Over long ages of time the symbolism of the union of the red and white has become embedded in magical and alchemical literature as the mystic marriage or royal wedding of Sol and Luna. The Persian temple of Babylon was known to the Arabs as Qubbat Babylon, ‘cupola of Babylon’, a fire temple. The cupola, a square tower with a rounded dome, is frequently used in alchemical literature to signify the furnace or athanor.

In modern times, the alchemical texts have been misconstrued. A rudimentary and false explanation of the secrets of alchemy as either pertaining to occult mysteries of physical sex, or to human psychological ‘process’, has resulted in ludicrous attributions. For example, the athanor has been associated by Aleister Crowley and others with the male sexual organ whereas it is in fact a feminine symbol. The cucurbit, while seemingly an emblem of the female, is better understood as the containing principle of the entire occult anatomy.

Babylon: Lost Word of the Aeons

The rationalisation of the fragmentary knowledge that survived the fall of Egypt to be filtered through the distorting mirror of uninitiated scholarship has continued to the present day. The ‘lost word’, far from being recovered, is buried more deeply than ever in the substratum of human consciousness. Nonetheless, through the dark ages of man’s reign on earth, the living voice of Babylon the Great, whom we know as BABALON, emerges from the depths, calling us to truth and justice.

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

The ancient Gnostic scripture, Thunder Perfect Mind, was undoubtedly received in oracular fashion. By the time biblical New Testament gospels were composed, the Egyptian language was forgotten along with the secrets veiled by its hieroglyphs. Scriptural writers and editors were strongly influenced by the intensely dualistic Greek and Persian cults, and so driven by the rigours of military male asceticism.

Babylon the Fallen

Mighty Babylon, gigantic symbol of the spiritual authority of the ancient Egyptian priesthood, was long ago desecrated by a Persian king who thought that treasure might be buried underneath! According to the book of Revelation, 14: 8:
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
Thus the irony deepens, for to religious zealots down the ages it is Babylon that symbolises the pride and arrogance of materialism. Perhaps the adultery, confusion or mixing up of things, was after all on the side of scriptural scribes. The mythical ‘fall’ of Babylon the Great may now be seen as having its origin in literal fact.

Babalon and Ouarda the Seer

Liber AL vel Legis is a contentious oracle since a religion has been formed around it, and its so-called prophet, Aleister Crowley. However, there most certainly was a pythoness that brought forth luminous shards of the ancient Egyptian wisdom, albeit heavily cloaked in Crowley’s conceit once he had determined that it might place power in his hands. It is likely that Rose Edith Kelly (Rose Crowley) had far more to do with the transmission and writing of Liber AL than is evident from the account given by Aleister Crowley. It has been suggested we might rename the oracular book in question as the Book of Ouarda the Seer, or of Soror Ouarda, 576, for that was Rose’s magical name.

Rose Edith Kelly, Ouarda the Seer (Rose Crowley)
Rose was by all accounts the medium and intelligence for the transmission activated through the Stele of Revealing in the Cairo museum in 1904. We know that Aleister Crowley needed her help when he wished to change some of the wording after the transmission, even though he later claimed she had not even been present in the room when the book was received! Babalon appears in two aspects in the Book of the Law. Firstly, in cosmic form as Nuit, and secondly as the Scarlet Woman or soul, who may ‘fall’ or undergo resurrection. The words that Crowley wanted to change were from Nuit, Liber AL, I: 26:

And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the unfragmentary non-atomic fact of my universality.

Crowley received permission (presumably) to change the last five words to, “the omnipresence of my body”, a rather trite theological intervention compared to the vitality of the original phrase. Although superficially the meaning is the same, the neologism ‘unfragmentary’, used in conjunction with ‘non-atomic’, specifically declares the geometry of space-time as non-Euclidian and the atomic world as a mere conventional illusion. Since Einstein produced his theory of relativity the instruments of material science have proved, for example, that starlight bends around the gravitational field of the sun. The curvature of the sun’s rays forms a timeless, dimensionless sphere of sensation around the star. This is comparable to the naked splendour of the body of Nuit, which is the ancient Egyptian principle of universal containment.

Babalon: Heart and Soul

Moving forward to the present time, Babalon figures prominently in certain theurgical rites. For example, in the reformed Ritual of the Pentagram, Nuit assumes four faces about the circle of the place.[1] In the South, attributed to elemental fire and the zodiacal sign of Leo, Babalon stands guard. She is also regarded as Mistress of Magick and it is in her name that the temple is opened and closed. The Communion Mass, which involves three primary symbols of Incense, Light and Wine, is dedicated to Hormaku, the Sphinx of Egypt.[2] Hormaku is an image of the Hermetic Light as magical child of the Great Work.

Babylon the Great of Egypt, our Lady BABALON, as we know her through our rites and ceremonies, oracles, dreams and aspirations, is the heart and soul of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. She stands forever upon the threshold between the two lands, union of the red lion and white eagle, the kingdom of earth and that of heaven, body and soul, mind and heart. Empirical evidence supports the ideal, echoed down the ages through countless instances of inspired writing and thought, that those who put in place the magical science and art of Khem were not human, but an elder race of which very few on earth may now bear the image. The continuity of existence was therefore known aeons before Einstein produced his theories for the assistance of man’s self-destruction.

The surviving remnants of the Egyptian arts declare a doctrine that is both rational and non-rational. Long ages before the general law of relativity was known by science, the priesthood of Set understood that the geometry of space-time is non-Euclidian. It is not the phallus of Osiris that is the ‘lost word’, but the soul of Nature that is as yet unknown to those who dwell in darkness and ignorance. We call this Thelema, which is the living seed of creative power latent within the dwarf-soul or star of man.

While man sleeps, a myriad of forms arise to bewilder and enchant him. Yet these forms, each masking the formless reality of bornless space, may equally enslave man or illumine the path to enlightenment and ultimate liberation. We may suppose the motive for founding upon the earth an exact mirroring of the complexities of nature was inspired through love. The mirror of the black land of Egypt expresses truth through mathematics, astronomy, hieroglyphics, art, gods, magical rites and ceremonies. Those preeval seers, skrying across aeons of time, could doubtless foresee that the race of humans is predoomed to spread violence, warfare, contagion and disease across the entire planet. Out of love, they planted the seeds of the soul’s salvation deep within the hidden matrix of our existence. The Gnosis is in itself indestructible. While the colossus of Babylon-Hathoor was pulled down and broken into fragments by slaves of a mad king, her temple yet stands, inviolate until the end of time. And, as according to all ancient wisdom sources, the end is with the beginning.


1. See the Reformed Ritual of the Pentagram (Ordo Astri).
2. See the Communion Mass (Ordo Astri).

© Oliver St. John 2018
This article is an abridgement. The full length essay, with annotations and citations, appears in the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

Grimoire of Armadel Decoded

S.L. MacGregor Mathers, founder of the Golden Dawn, first translated the manuscript held at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris from French and Latin. The work was hidden away for years in the Gerald Yorke collection, and has received little or no serious attention since it was first published in 1980. It has, though, received scholastic criticism, as lacking authenticity. In the introduction to the 1995 Weiser edition the work is written off as practically worthless, possessing neither literary merit nor magical value. A deeper investigation of The Grimoire of Armadel is now long overdue, for magical virtue is an elusive stone. In consideration of the potential uses of The Grimoire of Armadel we have produced a magically restored version of its key symbol, Operation of the Uriel Seraphim, and a few Qabalistic conjurations to further forge a tenuous bridge across the Abyss.

Operation of the Uriel Seraphim (Magically Restored)

Operation of the Uriel Seraphim Magically Restored (Oliver St. John)

The name Armadel is obscure, but may be construed as a conjunction of ORH (a’arah), “to reveal” and DLI (dali), “a vessel or urn”. The urn is the symbol of Aquarius and forms the name of Nuit, the starry goddess. We might expect a revelation concerning the celestial or heavenly abode.

Grimoire of Armadel: Magical Value

There is a difference to be discerned between literary merit and magical value—which must be entirely subjective. The garbled presentation may have been deliberate, to protect the work from the profane. Or it might be the whole thing was indeed faked up, as suggested in the aforesaid introduction to the most recent edition of the book. If it was, then the unique content, arguably more useful than that of grimoires favoured for their ‘authenticity’, remains something of a puzzle. While the relationship of the dubious Christianised biblical texts with the spirits is hard to discern, that does not mean it is entirely absent. Our intention here is to provide a hint as to how such a work, which looks in places as though the pages were thrown up into the air and collected together haphazard, can indicate more, viewed in a certain way, than an orderly Qabalistic tabulation of powers, potencies, thrones and dominions.

The Latin is undoubtedly bad, provoking an amusing storm of protest from Mathers by way of his annotations: “vile”, “mutilated”, “obscure”, and “without the slightest punctuation”. Yet some of the seals and sigils in the Armadel are beautiful, having artistic merit as well as magical value. The grimoire itself is not like any other in that its aim appears to be obtaining direct knowledge from angels involved in the cosmic war in heaven, which is said to have preceded the fall of Adam. The entire Operation of the Uriel Seraphim concerns the sphere of Da’ath, “knowledge”—an aspect of the Qabalah that has not been explored deeply until modern times. 

Grimoire of Armadel: Uriel Seraphim

The Grimoire of Armadel is worth studying for the Uriel Seraphim banner alone. The grimoire takes time, work and thoughtful rearrangement before it becomes intelligible. We have attempted here to demonstrate how this might be done in our “magically restored” drawing of the Operation of the Uriel Seraphim. The original figure was hidden away at the back of the source manuscript, as though an afterthought or appendage. Yet it is the key to the real operation, which is much obscured by the greater part of the grimoire’s content.

The invocation—or possibly evocation—of Uriel is actually conveyed on pp. 27 of the Weiser edition. The section is headed, “In the Fields of Babylon”. There appears here a seal of the Archangel Uriel that could well be a blind. If the content is transferred to the Operation of the Uriel Seraphim (the book’s frontispiece), the picture begins to come into focus. Curiously, there is an instruction to invoke Uriel before daybreak on a Wednesday, which would place Uriel in the class of spirits of Mercury. Uriel is not usually classed as a planetary angel or spirit, and is traditionally understood to be a mighty angel, no less than keeper of the gates of Eden. The powers listed here do conform to those of Mercury: prophecy, natural sciences and medicine. Indeed, the whole occult theme of the grimoire concerns Gemini and its ruler, Mercury.

The Grimoire of Armadel concerns duality and the discriminating path of the intellect, which comes under the auspices of the letter and Qabalistic 17th path of Zain (ZIN). Zain is “a sword”, and Uriel is said to wield the flaming sword that kept the Garden of Eden (from penetration by profane humans). The flaming sword is itself the whole nature of the sphere of Da’ath, the non-sephira that acts as an ultimate ring-pass-knot for human reason and intellect. As according to the book of Genesis, 3: 24:
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
In producing the reconstructed drawing of the Operation of the Uriel Seraphim (above) we have not sought to meddle with the form and design. It serves as a banner that can be physically constructed, a temple floor-plan and a triangle of evocation. The pennants on both sides of the triangle symbolise Chokmah and Binah, while the double circle of Uriel between them is Da’ath, the magical child of these two. We have no traffic with the biblical demiurge so have placed in the banner of Chokmah the Gnostic deity of the sphere, IAO, in an arrangement of nine squares. IAO adds to 81 (if spelled with omicron) and so the arrangement confirms this geometrically. For the pennant of Binah we have substituted the name ALHI arranged in a Pythagorean tetractys. The total numeration of this tetractys is 105, the Mystic Number of the 14th path by which the Word (i.e. Logos) is made intelligible. The ten letters may symbolise the whole Tree of Life in Binah, or creative world of Briah. The total numeration of the pennants is therefore 186, which reduced by its factor, yields 93. Love is the law, love under will.

The two side-pennants may further be considered as the wings of Hadit, and the circle of Uriel as the globe. According to Hadit in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 7:
I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle.
In the centre of the circle of Uriel stands the figure of an angel (or devil), which is also the figure of the exorcist in the midst of the exorcism, as it is put in the Golden Dawn “Z” formula of evocation.
I am the exorcist in the midst of the exorcism. Taken on therefore manifestation before me, and be without fear. For I am the one in whom fear is not.
The figure in the centre of the circle, or magical mirror of Da’ath, is one of utmost curiosity. It is formed from an equal cross, stands upon two feet, is horned and bearing an upright wand in the left hand and a reversed wand in the right. In its heart is a Maltese cross and the word ZIN is inscribed at each quarter to reflect the flaming sword of Genesis, as turning every way.

Detail from the Triangle of Art

Detail from Uriel Seraphim, Armadel: Magically Restored (Oliver St. John)

The image of a god holding an upraised wand, fire, serpent or branch in one hand and the same symbol inverted in the other is a preeval symbol of Hecate and other goddesses; that is to say, the symbol was used before the latter were demonised or otherwise relegated to inferior status. The same dual symbol is glyphed in many of the traditional Tarot decks depicting monstrous forms of the Devil. The cultural distortion that is the accretion of the ages is hinted at by Eliphaz Levi in the title he gives his drawing of Baphomet for the 15th Atu, “Hermetic Light”.(1) The operation of this occult light is dual, hence, diabolos or “double”. Likewise the alchemical term, which Levi added to his Tarot trump: Solve et Coagula.

The name of URIEL adds to 247 (VRIAL). In the Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth we find:

247 ÷ 13 = 19 The number of Eve and of the Sun.

247 = 13 x 19 The priestess of the path of the lion; the woman rayed by the sun; the moon of the lion (or nocturnal angel of Leo).

By Qabalistic Gematria the number 247 is that of RMZ, the outer level of the mysteries. Through the metathesis of ZMR, “singer; song or melody; one who chants a magical invocation”, we may intuit:

The following of the symbol back to its source allows one to grasp the wisdom branch—the golden thread that is the means of understanding the labyrinth or puzzle of the mysteries, and the means of union with the source of all knowledge behind the veil of appearances.(2)

By metathesis two more words are formed, ZRM, “overwhelm; a flood” and RZM, “wink, hint or insinuate”. It is said of RZM:

From the root RZI, “secret; mysterious”; the name of the Archangel in Chokmah of Briah, Ratziel, is formed thus, meaning “mystery of the house of God”; the correspondence of Chokmah and Binah is to the eyes; a secret may be known in the wink or twinkle of an eye, whether from a symbol (RMZ), a song, or the singer of the song (ZMR); at the level of Chokmah of Briah, such knowledge may be overwhelming for the soul.(3)

According to The Grimoire of Armadel (pp. 27, Weiser):
In this Sigil there be taught the method of understanding what and of what kind were those twin Souls (namely) Henoch [Enoch].
The comment from Mathers reads, “It is noteworthy what is here said concerning the dual nature of Enoch!” The grimoire nonetheless goes on to expound the dual nature of Sophia and Logos, or Chokmah and Binah:
The faculties of the Mind and Understanding are purified, and these also in such a manner that they may be exalted from the lowest degree unto that which is most perfect of all. By the which composition also there can be a transmission made of the participating Power or that power of communication of the comprehension of Spirit.(4)
The nature of the soul is dual, according to ancient Egyptian lore. When the name Enoch (ChNK) is considered as the verb, “to initiate”, the meaning of the above description becomes clear: the soul must undergo division before ascent of the planes can take place. This is evident by even a cursory glance at the Hermetic Tree of Life or the Hermetic Caduceus, which may be placed upon the Tree so that it embraces all, though the twin serpents reach only to Da’ath.(5)

It is also noteworthy, perhaps, that John Dee, the Elizabethan alchemist and astrologer to the Queen, was guided by Uriel and, as a result, obtained a significant proportion of the work that has come to be known as Enochian Magick.(6)

Grimoire of Armadel: Fields of Babylon

The title of the section that describes the Operation of the Uriel Seraphim, “In the Fields of Babylon”, refers to the fictitious Old Testament account of captivity and exile in the ancient Mesopotamian city. The assistance of the great angel Uriel described here may be construed as a metaphor for the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel—the soul, through Initiation, achieves liberation from the prison of time and matter.

In ancient times, cities and gods were one and the same. If we consider that the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar, known as Babalon in the Thelemic tradition, is identical (through attributes) with the Egyptian Sekhet or Hathoor, then the fields referred to in the title become transposed from a place of servitude to the ancient Egyptian reed fields or heavenly paradise called Sekhet A’aru. Unlike the land of the dead, which is placed in the west (sunset), eternity is placed in the east (sunrise), and requires passing through 21 gates or pylons. This is also the number of major arcana in the Tarot, where zero encompasses all.

One other singular detail of The Grimoire of Armadel is its formulation of the first nine letters and paths of the Tree of Life into the names of spirits. There is an entry each for Alepta, Betel, Gimela, Dalete, Hethatia, Vau-ael, Zainael, Hetael, and Tetahatia—though these are not given in the correct order in the Grimoire. The first nine numbers produce the Mystic Number of Yesod, which is also a number of Saturn: ∑ (1–9) = 45. The image of Yesod is the magical mirror, and Da’ath may in some ways be viewed as a higher octave of the Moon. The first nine paths form the ‘housing’ of Da’ath, and five of these reach down from the Abyss to the world of the Ruach (mind-spirit) below it. The number 9 is also that of the Serpent of Knowledge. 

Grimoire of Armadel: Conclusion

If the purpose of The Grimoire of Armadel is considered to be that of Initiation and of obtaining knowledge for the perfection of wisdom and understanding—as opposed to the presentation of a magical ‘cookbook’ of recipes for the gratification of purely egotistical whims—then it may reward the efforts of the theurgist dedicated to learning its secrets.


(1) Eliphaz Levi, Transcendental Magic.
(2) The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.
(3) Ibid.
(4) The italic emphasis here is ours, not that of the translator.
(5) See “Initiation”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.
(6) The source MS is the Mysterium, in three parts (ref. Clay Holden Project).

© Oliver St. John 2017

Friday, 24 November 2017

Magick of Lord Dunsany Journey of the King

This article is the subject of the Temple of Babalon podcast, Lord Dunsany Journey of the King Part One. The podcast is in two parts and features a dramatised audio broadcast of the short story, unabridged.

Time and the Gods was the second collection of short stories by Lord Dunsany (1858–1957), first published in 1906 (Heinemann).(1) Within five years the Irish baron was lauded as the greatest British writer and poet. Curiously, his works—80 published books not including plays and unpublished short stories—are now relegated to the backwaters of the fantasy genre. However, Lord Dunsany constantly experimented with literary form. He invented the fantasy genre if he had anything to do with it at all. His influence with writers, poets and playwrights was and still is vast. H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name but two of the most well known writers, have declared their respect. In 1923, Lovecraft wrote:(2)
Dunsany has influenced me more than anyone else except Poe—his rich language, his cosmic point of view, his remote dream-world, and his exquisite sense of the fantastic all appeal to me more than anything else in modern literature. My first encounter with him—in the autumn of 1919—gave an immense impetus to my writing; perhaps the greatest it has ever had.
"Time" by Sidney Sime, illustration for "Time and the Gods", Lord Dunsany
"Time", Sidney Sime

Part One of Time and the Gods deals with the gods of Old, or gods of Pegana, and how they created the world.(3) All the while, a mysterious foe lurked, whom the gods took at first for their slave, while they sought to understand his riddle. The masked god is in fact Time, and in Part Two, Journey of the King, his role is more fully revealed.

The style of Journey of the King is at times evocative of an ancient Egyptian or Indian folk tale. Viewed philosophically, the story is an early and vibrant form of universalism or syncretism, for it harmonises elements of Taoism, Hinduism, ancient Egyptian pharaonic theocracy and Christian theology.(4) Yet Dunsany conceived this story long before Aleister Crowley declared it his purpose in life to syncretise the mystic traditions of the world into the unifying doctrine of “Scientific Illuminism”.

At the beginning, the King sends the dancers and the wine-bearers out of the palace and demands of the prophets that they tell him of future things. He first tells the prophets that he will make a journey with many horses, yet riding upon none. The prophets then each give their own unique version of the King’s journey through the dream world or afterlife. One of these, the prophet Samahn, reveals the fate of all the souls of all the worlds, to be imprisoned in “the body of a man with five small windows closely barred, and each one shackled with forgetfulness”. According to traditional Eastern wisdom, the five senses are five robbers, the slayers of the real. The King is mind or spirit that presides over them yet is often bound by their fascination. In the words of Swami Vivekananda:(5)
My five oarsmen are foolish, and the helmsman is weak. My bearings are lost, my boat is sinking.
Samahn also tells how the gods of Old, through man’s neglect of their altars, begin to fade and die. They subsequently vanish away, taking their dreams with them, though there is a hint that they will be replaced by a new god that is not of the gods of Old. We may speculate that the new god is man himself, the god that will bedazzle all with new inventions and wonders, all the while leading man to final destruction.

The prophet Monith of the Temple of Azure tells of the King’s journey among the stars, through space and outside of time. The prophecy is particularly resonant with ancient Egyptian lore. Monith also tells that King Ebalon once went out riding and when a beggar, Yeb, failed to get out of the way, the King rode over him with his horses. The King is reincarnated as Yeb, the beggar, in a future life. Yet in that future, the beggar meets King Ebalon, who has not the soul of Yeb. In this way, the destiny of the King—and of all Kings in all worlds, times and places—is unfolded.

Shimono Kani, youngest of gods, Sidney Sime for "Time and the Gods", Lord Dunsany
Shimono Kani, Sidney Sime

Time and the Gods is brimful of spiritual wisdom and arcane knowledge expressed through sensuous, subtly nuanced poetry and lyricism. We know that Dunsany became acquainted with W.B. Yeats of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and “Æ” George William Russell, who was a confidente of the Order if not an actual member.(6) Time and the Gods was written around the same time that Aleister Crowley’s wife Rose mediumistically received the magical Egyptian Book of the Law, known as Liber AL vel Legis (Cairo, 1904). Lord Dunsany could not have known of the existence of the unpublished manuscript, at that time entitled Liber L vel Legis XXX. He might not have cared much for it if he had, yet there can be little doubt that Journey of the King provides a meaningful context against which the spiritual meaning of verse II: 58 becomes crystal clear:
Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King.
The prose-poetry of the tale displays Qabalistic sense and imagery. Whether this was the working of powerful intuition or otherwise, we cannot say. Part of the prophecy of Monith of the Temple of Azure, where the King gives his final blessing on the land, is a conveyance of Tiphereth in its fullest spiritual sense. Anyone acquainted with the imagery of the Hermetic Qabalah in its modern form will recognise in the prophecy of the Prophet of Journeys the Initiation of the King, through time and across worlds of wonder, passing beyond Tiphereth to the threshold of Da’ath and beyond:
The journey of the King shall be an old journey pushed on apace. Many a year before the making of the moon thou camest down with dream camels from the City without a name that stands beyond all the stars. And then began thy journey over the Waste of Nought, and thy dream camel bore thee well when those of certain of thy fellow travellers fell down in the Waste and were covered over by the silence and were turned again to nought; and those travellers when their dream camels fell, having nothing to carry them further over the Waste, were lost beyond and never found the earth. These are those men that might have been but were not. And all about thee fluttered the myriad hours travelling in great swarms across the Waste of Nought.
Compare with Liber AL vel Legis I: 27 and III: 72:
O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!
I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force of Coph Nia—but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought remains.
The Thelemic Qabalist will note the journeys on dream camels to the end of space and time, where only Nought prevails. The prophecy of Samahn tells of the bones of thirty ancient Kings resting upon golden thrones in a white house, bearing their sceptres. The number 30 is that of “L”, the letter of the Egyptian goddess of the scales embodying the principle of natural law or karma.(7) The white house or palace is a well known symbol of Kether the Crown, the primal manifestation of the Tree of Life, while the golden throne is Tiphereth at the centre of all, which bears the light or lamp of Kether in the lower worlds. The prophets that foretell the journey are ten in number, which is that of the whole Tree of Life and of Malkuth the Kingdom. Time, the End of All, is the eleventh masked prophet and the number 11 is that of Da’ath, or Knowledge, as recorded in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 6:
I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.
Da’ath is not a place as such, but a mode of consciousness and a point of transition between the worlds of appearance and the indescribable worlds of pure spirit, where form is at best merely foreshadowed. Da’ath has sometimes been described, particularly in the writings of Kenneth Grant, as a place where infinite worlds may not only be accessed but also created. Of such post-abysmal dreams, the prophet Ynar of the Crystal Peak—perhaps the most powerful of them all for he is later condemned for his prophecy yet cannot be touched—tells thus:
And thou shalt find that dreams are real where there is nought as far as the Rim but only thy dreams and thee. With them thou shalt build palaces and cities resting upon nothing and having no place in time, not to be assailed by the hours or harmed by ivy or rust, not to be taken by conquerors, but destroyed by thy fancy if thou dost wish it so or by thy fancy rebuilded.
Through many worlds and dreams—which Lord Dunsany in his narrative insists are more real than the world of men—this beautiful and complex tale comes to a final resolution. Yet as one might expect, the resolution is achieved after a weird fashion. The journey begins where it ends, thus setting a keystone for all future writers in what was to become the fantasy genre. The works of Dunsany are more than merely influential. He opened the ways of boundless, unfettered imagination to a degree that is incomparable with anything written before or since. At the same time much of his work, as exemplified in the eleven chapters of the Journey of the King, carries a real weight of spiritual, mystic and even prophetic insight.


(1) Lord Dunsany’s full name was Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany.
(2) Lovecraft—A Study in the Fantastic, Maurice Lévy, translated by S.T. Joshi, pp. 33 (Wayne State University Press 1988).
(3) The Gods of Pegana is the title of Lord Dunsany’s first book, published on commission in 1905.
(4)“Pharaonic theocracy” is a term coined by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. See in particular, Sacred Science (Inner Traditions International). Christian elements are sometimes conveyed with irony, as in “The Highwayman” and “The Kith of the Elf-folk” from The Sword of Welleran and other stories.
(5) The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 7 (talk given on Wednesday June 19th, 1895).
(6) According to Ithell Colquhoun, Sword of Wisdom (pp. 136): “Maybe one should include [in the list of members of Isis-Urania] some of Yeats’s contacts in the Dublin Hermetic Society and the Dublin Branch of the TS [Theosophical Society], who were also connected … with this Temple through him. Yeats certainly wrote to Lady Gregory and to G.W. Russell (AE) too freely on Order-matters if they were not members.”
(7) Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of the scales and balance (Libra), is depicted on the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump Adjustment VIII, which corresponds Qabalistically to Lamed (“L”, 30) and the 22nd path of the Tree of Life.

© Oliver St. John 2017  

Saturday, 21 October 2017

New Light on Stele 666

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

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

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

The Aka Dua Mantram from Stele 666

The A KA DUA mantram is better known as the second verse from the Song of the Stele. Mentu is the name of the ancient Egyptian god depicted on the front of the Stele of Revealing usually described as Ra-hoor-khuit, as mentioned in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law. Mentu is a name of Set and a special name by which the Ankh-af-na-khonsu cult of Thebes knew Ra-hoor-khuit, the neter of the sun’s heat at full strength. Herukhuti, Hrumachis, Hormaku (Sphinx of Egypt) and Ra-hoor-khuit are simply different spellings of the same name. The ancient Egyptian mode of analogous thinking appears to be highly complex to the modern mind, accustomed as it is to so-called concrete facts and linear strategies. All this will become clearer if we consider the enthroned god and adoring priest under the nocturnal sky of Nuit and winged sun disk Hadit (or Heru Behedet).

The Priestly Adoration of Menthu on Stele 666

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

Hormaku is the ‘God of the two horizons’, or ‘Horus in the sky’. The Sphinx of Egypt is the God of the Horizon as she points towards the place where the sun rises at the equinox or first point of Aries. Thus, by precession of the equinoxes she now points towards the cusp of Aquarius or Nuit, The Star XVII of the Tarot trumps. The ‘future aeon’ referred to in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 57 as Hrumachis is not in the future but is here and now and for all eternity. 

The Words and Spells of Stele 666

In 1904, Crowley employed the services of an Egyptologist to get the Stele translated then applied his poetic skills to render this in a manner that conveyed his magical ideas and understanding. We use it because it scans well and is very easy to memorise for ritual use (it rhymes!). Crowley’s poeticising of the Stele is not wrong, and we shall continue to use his verses. However, when the hieroglyphics are looked into closely, further depths of meaning may be plumbed. Crowley’s mantram begins, “Unity uttermost showed, I adore the might of thy breath”. The ancient Egyptians were not overly concerned with theological ‘unity’, for the gods are polymorphous and in nature all manifestation is dual. When manifestation is withdrawn it is understood as the circle of Nuit, or All. In Thelema this is traditionally formularised as 0 = 2 (Nuit and Hadit, the ubiquitous point in the circle). Something is certainly being ‘showed’ or revealed, and while it is not wrong to assume the Qabalistic Kether, the Crown (the god wears a solar crown), the Egyptian Akh conveys a subtler depth and range of meaning. The “might of thy breath” is a translation of tuf ur biu, which includes the plural of ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’. It is easy to follow Crowley’s line of thought, for in the Qabalah, breath, mind and spirit are interchangeable terms summed up as Ruach. Yet the Egyptian sense is of many souls or spirits. To provide a translation of the mantram closer to the ancient Thelemic cult of Thebes, and to further understanding, we need to know something about the various parts of the soul. One valuable source is E.A. Wallis Budge’s introduction to his special 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead.[1] A further source, less well known but an astounding narrative in its own right, is Omm Sety’s Egypt.[2] The functions of the Egyptian parts of the soul are explained in ‘Initiation’, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.[3] If we combine these resources, the Thelema as it was known to the priests of Thebes becomes clearer. It is only necessary here to summarise the key parts of the soul as described by Budge.

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

The Khabs or ‘star’ of Da’ath is not listed by Budge but is nonetheless vital to our understanding of Thelema and of magical initiation. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8–9 it is declared:

The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you! 

Budge did not there describe the Akh (Malkuth and Kether). The Akh is named on the reverse side of the Stele of Revealing and forms the first syllable of our mantram. In Omm Sety’s Egypt, the functions of the Akh are described in detail. In Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary there are many meanings and functions for the noun and verb and, perhaps not surprisingly, they agree with those given by Sety. Principally, the sense of Akh is ‘to soar, fly through the air (as a bird)’. It also has the meaning of ‘reaching out’, which is the gesture made by the priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu on the Stele of Revealing. Other spellings convey ‘fire’, ‘shining’, ‘radiance’, ‘spirit’. According to Sety, the key spiritual and magical function of the Akh is to unite the Ka, Ba and Khu so the Ka is then able to freely travel to any world, at will.

On the third and lower portion of the Stele of Revealing the funerary oration of the priest of the Theban cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he is the son of Bes-na-mut, a priest with the same titles, and his mother Tanech, a musician for Amen-Ra. On the reverse of the Stele it is stated that his soul has passed through the gate of the west or western peak, known by the Egyptians as the passage to Amentet the land of the dead. Thus Ankh-af-na-khonsu may travel the worlds at will and even visit the earth. His name is after all that of the moon god or ‘Sky-Rider’, Khonsu. In standing before the sceptre-bearing Ra-Mentu as shown on the obverse of the Stele, the priestly prophet is as the moon shining forth with the sun’s reflected radiance. On the reverse side of the Stele, Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he has joined his self to the earth even in death.

Do not speak against me in the presence of the Great Lord of the West: Although I have joined myself to the earth through the western gate of the sky may I endure upon the earth … Ankh-af-na-khonsu shall go forth in the light, bearing the lamp and staff of Thelema among the living souls that dwell upon the earth.

In Omm Sety’s Egypt, Sety also tells how upon death (in Thebes) he passed through the gate of the west.

During life the ba, akh and ka dwell always in the khat (physical body). As you well know, the akh may be freed by one who knows magic, and it can travel to distant places or even to Amenti. There are a few learned magicians who can also set the ka free during life, but this is not a good thing to do. If the ba leaves the khat, the khat will immediately die. After death, the ba, akh and ka are reunited in Amenti, but the ka may prefer to return and visit the earth. It is free to come and go at will, and this makes no difference to the reunited ba and akh, which have become as they were on earth. In Amenti there is no sickness or physical pain. But how terrible can be the pain of the heart. … I was at Thebes when I left this world, and I passed by way of Peak-of-the-West.

The Akh may be used to travel about but it cannot do anything with physical matter because it is not of the (physical) body. Sety has explained how certain priests with knowledge of such things, having power of their Akh, may have planned to revisit the earth even in future times. In this way the pharaoh Sety I was able to visit Dorothy Eady (Omm Sety), and the Theban gods of the Stele of Revealing were able to appear to Rose Edith Kelly (Rose Crowley) in Cairo, 1904. Curiously, the Egyptologist Dorothy Eady was not only born in 1904 but was also mentored as a young girl by E.A. Wallis Budge.

The tale of Dorothy Eady is no less improbable to the material scientist or rational thinker than is the reception of the Book of the Law in Cairo—in spite of Crowley’s efforts to make his account of it seem plausible. The account of Dorothy Eady is so detailed and factually accurate that even modern-day Egyptologists will not attempt to debunk it. In gathering all this knowledge together it is possible to create a new translation of the mantram of the Stele of Revealing beginning Akh Dua—which is a slightly corrected (or modified) transliteration into English.


O how I have longed for thee to appear
In the splendour of thy shining rays.
Thou has set the wizened path
Before thy blessed souls—secret are the ways!
O thou, warrior at the gates of heaven,
To thee, to thee I give praise!

We have striven here to find words bearing some semblance of the nuanced poetry conveyed by the hieroglyphs. The ancient Egyptian language was such that the layers of possible meaning are practically infinite. For example, there is frequent repetition of a phrase for particular emphasis. There are puns—for the play-on-words was much loved by the Egyptians. There are etymological cross-references to actual earth locations known to the initiate and traveller. Tuf ur biu suggests, among other things, an ancient nome centre that housed a subterranean labyrinth, in the centre of which was a secret shrine to Horus.

Neither this translation nor that of any Egyptologist should be taken as authoritative. A Qabalah, not based on numbers but more akin to etymology, requiring analogous thinking to decipher, is embedded in all such texts. Each word has many levels of meaning and there are countless ways in which a name or word can be spelled in hieroglyphics. The understanding of that which is written and carved in stone differs for each person that can read it as according to their knowledge. Thus the magical secrets of the ancient Egyptians are everywhere written plainly, yet the knowledge is “written and concealed” (Liber AL vel Legis, III: 75).


1. The 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead was republished in unabridged form by Arkana in 1985. Study of Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (Vols One and Two) is highly recommended for expansion of knowledge and development of intuition. In the latter volumes, Budge covertly reveals the non-numerical Qabalah of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
2. Omm Sety's Egypt, Hanny el Zeini and Catherine Dees [St. Lynne’s Press].
3. The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2017, 2018
This article is taken from the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Total Eclipse: Wedding of the Beast and his Bride

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

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

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

The fixed star Regulus is one of the four ancient “Watchers of the Skies” that mark the corners of the visible universe. Regulus is otherwise known as Cor Leonis, “heart of the lion”. The Great Symbol or universal mandala of the Order of the Star is aligned with the Aeonic Mutable Cross now formed by Regulus. The Aeonic Mutable Cross, or Hrumachis as it is obliquely referenced in the Egyptian Book of the Law, was formed by the end of 2012 when the position of Regulus moved out of Leo and into the sign of Virgo. Exactly three years later, at the Capricorn solstice of 2015, Boleskine House burned to the ground, fulfilling the prophecy declared in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 34. The article Prophecy of Liber AL Fulfilled appeared shortly after those events.

The alchemical rectification or fixing of the volatile was known and operated by ancient Egyptian priest-kings in the ceremony called the Opening the Mouth (of the Lion). The Mutable Cross opens a passage into hyperspace, thus affording the transmutation of the dual kundalini energy (Aub) into the starlight of Nuit (Aud). In ancient Egyptian terms, it is the forming of the magical body called the Khu, which houses the immortal Khabs star.(1) As it is put in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8:

The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.

Every Neophyte works to develop their own understanding of the mysterious role played by the tetrahedronal pyramid in Initiation. The tetrahedron, symbol of the Diamond Soul, is adumbrated by the Probationer as they near the end of their course. The Neophyte then realises this more fully at their Initiation known as the Phoenix.(2) The interplay of the triangle and the square, the ternary and quadruplicity (“Hormaku”), overshadows the whole course of Initiation that is possible to humanity in its final wave of manifestation.

According to “Starlight Gateway”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga:
The three-dimensional tetrahedron representing the Khabs in time and space thus opens and ‘dissolves’. It then passes out of time and space into the infinite field of space (zero) and consciousness (none). The tetrahedron then opens up as the Sri Yantra, the Eye in the Triangle or Hawk’s Eye in the Silver Star, as declared in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 44:
Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.
The flame of Hadit now burns with the Khabs star dwelling in the celestial Khu, so the Khabs passes out of the three dimensional universe of time and space.

The Trident of Neptune

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

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

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

Qabalistically, the supernal triad is represented above by Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. Below, symbolic of the terrestrial plane, we have Mercury (in retrograde cycle) and the Moon covering 8–15 degrees Virgo. The beneficent planets Jupiter and Venus here mediate between heaven and earth, the non-material and material worlds that compose the Thelemic two and naught (0=2 equation). As it is put in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 28:
None breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two.
Traditionally, members of the Order gather (whether physically or astrally) each month to celebrate the entry of the Sun into a new sign of the Zodiac. This entry of the Sun into Virgo, coinciding with the Trident of Neptune, is no exception. Members in the United Kingdom will be performing the rite of Nuit and Ra for Virgo at around 6pm GMT or Universal Time on the evening of Tuesday the 22nd August.(3) This ritual is a celebration of the ancient Egyptian mysteries of Isis. When Horus, the ‘Aeon’ or magical child, is poisoned by the weight of all the evils of humanity, Isis and Nephthys (the dual Aub wave) call for the sunboat of Ra to be stopped in its tracks (a total eclipse; shivadarshana).

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

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

Eclipse Transits to the Natal Horoscope

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

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

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Thelemic Mysticism: Will to a Great Work

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

The unveiling of the company of heaven.

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

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

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 28—29

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

Zeus Battling Typhon, William Blake

Thelemic Mysticism: Zeus Battling Typhon, by William Blake

Thelema: Division Hither Homeward

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

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 30

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

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

Liber AL vel Legis, III: 2

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1: 1–4

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

Thelema and Praxis: a Great Work

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

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

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

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

Thelema and Satan

The Christian mystics made quite a lot of fuss about the fleshly opposition, likening this to a constant struggle with Satan. This does not sit well with the majority of today’s magical practitioners. Aleister Crowley, often falsely accused of ‘Satanism’, insisted that we should best understand Satan as the principle of Initiation through trial and ordeal—a very Christian idea if we consider its source is in the account of Matthew 4: 1–11. Even natural mystics such as Jacob Boehme asserted that it is the struggle that is the very thing needed! Without that, there is no Great Work. We are human; we are imperfect. The greatest of saints were great not because it was easy for them, but because they encountered—and overcame—everything that hell had to throw at them. Unfortunately, our rationality is no ally in the Great Work, but is definitely on the side of Satan—that is, the materialistic Opposer to any Great Work. According to the Egyptian Book of the Law:
If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops and does nought.
If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.
Liber AL vel Legis, II: 30–31

Thelema vs. Humanistic Psychology

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

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

The Gilded Cage, Evelyn De Morgan

Psychological Reductionism: The Gilded Cage by Evelyn De Morgan

Thelema and Mysticism

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

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

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

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

Book of John 6: 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Egyptian Book of the Law, in its three chapters and 220 verses, makes it starkly clear that human rationality—termed as the “dogs of reason”—is doomed, and is the arch means of self-dooming.
Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.
Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog!
Liber AL vel Legis, II: 32—33

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

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

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

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

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

Liber AL vel Legis, II: 46—47

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

There is a dramatised audio podcast version of this article here:
Thelemic Mysticism and Jacob Boehme