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Oliver St. John is the author of books on Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v. New articles and essays are posted at Tantrika Books.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Last Oracle: Winter Solstice 2012

On Friday December the 21st the Sun enters Capricorn at the winter solstice. Capricorn is the sign of the goat, and his image is the 15th Tarot key, called The Devil. This phallic depiction of a hornéd god with a third eye in the middle of his forehead is the image of spirit, the invisible force that moves all of nature, clothed in material form. “All of nature” is Pan, the All-begetter, the flute-playing goat-foot god much loved by ancient Greek shepherds.

Crowley-Thoth Tarot Atu XV, the Devil

The Devil XV Thoth Tarot Atu

How on earth, you may well wonder, did this somewhat licentious lover of wine, women and song become transmuted—through a complex chain of theological speculation—into a personification of cosmic evil?

This winter solstice 2012 is, to some, unique and very special. It marks the end of an entire era in the history of humanity and the beginning of a new one. Here is a digest of some of the theories of this New Aeon 2012.

Astrologer John Major Jenkins first proposed the idea of a Great Galactic Alignment. However, when Jenkins noted that the Sun would precisely align with the galactic centre at the solstice of 2012, he also conceded that the most precise convergence has already occurred—at the winter solstice of 1998. It is very difficult to say exactly where the centre of the Milky Way is, given that it does not have a symmetrical shape.

According to Adrian Gilbert, author of The Mayan Prophecies, the Mayans prophesied the end of our age, called by them the Age of the Jaguar, in 2012. According to the calendrical data there were four previous great ages that rose and fell; we are now at the end of the fifth and final age. Unfortunately, since the Mayan civilisation collapsed and the Spanish conquest wiped out their entire culture along with its records, it is hard to know if the Mayans were prophesying anything at all. The calendar does not end, in fact, at the winter solstice 2012. The clock is simply reset and the wheel of time begins again. Nonetheless, some of those with a fondness for eschatology will be preparing for the End of it All this Thursday evening.

Here is our own theory, based on astronomical facts and inspired by the astrological and magical images. From very ancient times four very bright stars have been observed that marked the four corners of the visible universe. They are known as the Four Watchers: Aldebaron the eye of the bull in the constellation of Taurus, Antares at the heart of Scorpio, Formalhaut in Aquarius and Regulus, the heart of Leo the Lion. Owing to the precession of the equinox, since 150 BC—2,162 years ago—Regulus has been slowly moving through the sign of Leo. From about the beginning of this month, as Regulus finally edged into the sign of Virgo, all four stars are now in mutable signs of the Zodiac. The fixed cross of the universe formed by these marking stars has now become a mutable or changing cross.

The winter solstice is the nearest seasonal marking point to celebrate the Grand Mutable Cross of the Heavens. There is a magical significance to Regulus in the sign of Virgo. The image is that of the 11th Tarot key, depicting the Goddess Babalon riding upon the Beast of Revelations.

Thoth Tarot Atu Lust XI

Lust XI Thoth Tarot Atu

The woman and beast is the symbol of Hormaku, the mysterious Sphinx of Egypt. So it may well be that for those who are prepared, an unparalleled alchemical Great Work of transmutation may now take place—As above, so below.

Here is our "universal" horoscope for the 12 signs, winter solstice (Capricorn) 2012.

The key signature of the winter solstice is a yod or “finger of God” formed by aspects between Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter. Jupiter is the planet of growth, learning and expansion or magnification. As Jupiter is currently tracking backwards through Gemini, we may need to understand that our collective obsession with information technology has taken us as far as we can go before we lose our grip on reality—and in losing that we are in danger of losing something of vital importance.

One of the themes of our times is identity—maintaining identity, losing identity, and finding identity. At the root of this dilemma over personal identity is the meaning of life itself: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we doing and for what purpose? The Abyss yawns above, below and on all sides. In truth, what we see is what we are and what we are is what we see. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

The need for identity was once satisfied to a large extent by the past. Race, religion, family, and ancestors—all these marks of blood, of belief and belonging, extended their roots deep into the land itself. Such marks were cut in stone to be preserved for all of time. The begetting of future generations is everyman’s token of immortality. A token is nonetheless a sign or symbol of something else. It is that “something” that has eluded us through all the dark ages of humanity’s time on earth.

Effective self-expression depends on knowing who and what we are. Over time we have become increasingly dependent on information provided for us from sources beyond our own reach. The weather forecast is a useful analogy. Birds and other animals simply know when a change of weather is coming. In the past, most folk knew what the weather was going to do by observing how birds and animals were behaving. Many now live their lives without noticing there is something going on around them called “nature”.

From what we are to what we own. There is more to what we own than mere money and possessions. It is in fact how we value ourselves that determines the kind of things that we want to acquire and possess. The ownership of land and property goes back to the time when someone first made a mark upon a tree or stone that declared, “Beware! You are about to tread on a bit of mother earth that I have special rights to.” This was especially important when agriculture came along. Every technological innovation, it seems, carries the mark of Cain.

It was René Descartes that said: Cogito ergo sum! “I think, therefore I am!” Descartes is sometimes described as the father of modern philosophy. If anything, this tells us how much value we apply to reasoning intelligence. Mankind often likes to think he is the only sentient creature on planet earth. He even imagines he might be the only sentient creature in the universe. Now here is a thought: Consciousness is everywhere present. It is not confined to any creature or object.

A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backwards or forwards. The most famous example is the square of Sator, which has been found in many ancient buildings and artifices. The square, five across and five down, reads: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS.

Sator Square

The Latin palindrome has caused puzzlement for centuries, but the meaning is quite simple. All of life and all of time is circular, not linear. We tend to think in straight lines, but that is not how nature works. The end is with the beginning and the beginning is with the end.

 In astrology the part of the body assigned to the Lion is the heart and the spine. The Sun is the ruler of Leo and as the Sun gives life to the solar system so the heart gives life to the body. If the Sun were to die, then all life on earth would cease to exist. If the heart stops beating the body soon dies. Ancient cultures ascribed intelligence to the heart, not the brain. The assignment carries wisdom for the present times: for to lose ones heart is no different than losing ones mind.

Until fairly recent times the vocation or career of a woman was not deemed to be of any great significance. What mattered was the career and reputation of the man that she married. Marriage was never about romance but was about property and ownership of goods. It was only in the last hundred years or so that marriage was romanticised through works of fiction. However, whenever two things are united a new set of conditions destroys the old and creates the new. As such we all have the magical power to cause “Change to occur in conformity with Will.”

Gnothi Seuton was the Egyptian axiom inscribed on the door of ancient Greek temples: “Know Thyself!” Such knowledge may be, after all, the mystery of all mysteries. In a sense, who and what we are is something defined not by race, religion or even place of birth but by what we learn and what we know about ourselves. The Greek word gnosis implies a kind of knowing that is more than the mere collecting of facts. It is more like knowing a friend or a lover, an intimacy born of intuition. To a Gnostic, to truly know oneself is no different than knowing God or the divinity inherent in all things.

A legacy is usually thought of as being an inheritance, property or money that is handed on from one person to another. It can also mean heritage, a cultural tradition, historic buildings or even unspoilt countryside. The first thing anyone learns about software is that it needs to be continually updated. Legacy software is software that has become obsolete but is so widely used that it needs to be preserved. At present, we tend to see nature as something there to serve us, which needs to be of some use to ourselves. The continuation of the human race may one day depend on how useful we are to other species of life.

Scientists, observing nature, have frequently concluded that all other species on the planet are as self-serving and obsessed with self-preservation as we are. However, the golden rule is that what we see is what we are and that what we are is what we see. Should we travel to the most distant stars in the galaxy and observe life on other planets, the same rule will apply. The universe is a mirror image of ourselves as we are an image of the universe. In that starry wisdom of old times resides the whole tragedy of life—and the beauty and the wonder of the continuity of existence.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Welcome to the Aeon of Hormaku 2012

According to the books and letters of the late Kenneth Grant, the year 2012 is of great import for magical Initiates. The December solstice of 2012 sees a reification on Earth of the cosmic forces of a New Aeon. Spiritual survival, according to Grant, depends on application of the correct keys, which are hidden in his writings.

It is fairly well known that the Mayan calender ended on the winter solstice (northern hemisphere) of 2012. However, the fact that the calender ended there does not constitute any prophecy—it had to end somewhere. We did some research to see if there was any further astronomical basis to thinking that December 2012 might herald a new epoch in spiritual and magical terms. What we discovered supports the interpretation of the third chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, that is revealed in The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.

Regulus, the star at the Heart of the Lion constellation, has now edged its way into the zodiacal sign of Virgo, forming a Grand Mutable Cross.

Aeon of Hormaku: Crowley Tarot Lust XI

2012: Precession and the Aeon of the Mutable Cross  

The Positions of the Four Watchers of the Heavens were as follows in the year 2000:

Constellation of Taurus:
Aldebaran, the Watcher of the East,  at 9º 47 Gemini

Constellation of Scorpio:
Antares, the Watcher of the West, at 9º 46 Sagittarius

Constellation of Aquarius:
Formalhaut, the Watcher of the South, at 3º 42 Pisces

Constellation of Leo:
Regulus, the Watcher of the North, at 29º 50 Leo

At the end of November 2012, or thereabouts, Regulus leaves the Zodiac sign of Leo and enters Virgo. This completes the Grand Mutable Cross.

In 3000 BCE, Regulus was conjunct the Sun rising on the summer solstice. The conjunction took place, therefore, at the Sun's entry into the sign of Cancer the Crab.

In 150 BCE Regulus entered the sign of Leo the Lion. Regulus has therefore been passing through Leo—though it is of course the Earth that is really moving at the poles—through the last 2,162 years. This approximates a precessional Great Age.

Regulus is now entering Virgo, the astrological sign typified by the Egyptian Isis, the Sumerian Ishtar and other creatrix goddesses. The solstice of December 2012 is as good a mark as any, as such motions are too minute to be considered on a day-to-day basis.  The solstice is also the ending and beginning of the natural year cycle. The Thelemic symbolism of the Woman and the Beast is implicit in Leo and Virgo, and is also implicit in the Sphinx of Hormaku, referred to in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 34:
But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down and shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place. Another prophet shall arise, and bring fresh fever from the skies; another woman shall awake the lust and worship of the Snake; another soul of God and beast shall mingle in the globèd priest; another sacrifice shall stain the tomb; another king shall reign; and blessing no longer be poured To the Hawk-headed mystical Lord!
This passage from the Egyptian Book of the Law can be understood as a poetic illustration of the royal star Regulus, Cor Leonis, moving from Leo to Virgo and completing the Grand Mutable Cross. The Mutable Cross of the Zodiac is ruled by Neptune, the chakra located outside of the body, whose mystery is the dissolution spoken of by Nuit in verse I: 30 of Liber AL vel Legis:
This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.
To the ancients, Regulus, the star of the North, was one of the four great Watchers of the cardinal points. Each Watcher has an associated Archangel, and the Archangel of Regulus is Raphael. It seems fitting that Raphael, the Archangel of the Sun (ruler of Leo), is at the same time the Angel of Mercury (ruler of Virgo). The Solar-Hermetic Lucifer is therefore embodied in one symbol. As Virgo symbolised the occult power that drives Iniitation during the age of Pisces, Leo is the occult power during the precessional Age of Aquarius. The occult power of any astrological sign is held by the sign directly opposite (180º) in the Zodiac.

There is a difference between prophecy, in the magical sense of the word, and the hysteria of new age numerologists, doom-mongers and the like. In all probability the world will awake on the morning after the solstice, 21st December 2012, without perceiving any notable changes. The trains will run on time, refuse will be collected and Christmas cards will be delivered. It is doubtful that television channels and radio stations will broadcast news of a new World Order, or of an extraterrestrial intervention. Prophecy is not the same as prediction, and we have no idea of any material outcome, or if indeed there should be one. Kenneth Grant warned magical adepts that they should prepare themselves, and that is precisely what we are doing. Hermetic magical work requires that the aspirant stays awake; even if we disregard the aeonic theories altogether, the advice is sound.


A full exposition of the magical import of the Aeon of Hormaku and precession is given in Stella Tenebrae Volume One Number 2 (Ordo Astri).

Study this subject within the overall context of magical philosophy: The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.

© Oliver St. John 2012

View other Books by Oliver St. John

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© Oliver St. John 2012, 2017

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sagittarius and the Crowley-Thoth Tarot

The Tarot trump for Sagittarius was traditionally titled Temperance XIV. It depicted an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. In the modern Tarot of Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris, the card has been retitled Art XIV. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed in the Tarot card.

Art XIV Thoth Tarot Atu

The signs of the zodiac are best understood as pairs; Gemini is the opposite and complementary sign to Sagittarius the Archer and Centaur. In the Tarot trump for Gemini, The Lovers VI, pairs of opposites were shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy were symbolised by a lion and an eagle. In the trump for Sagittarius all these opposites have exchanged places; the red lion has become white, the white eagle has become red. The Angel, clothed in green and wearing light and dark masks, pours fire and water into a golden cauldron. Into the cauldron are mixed drops of blood from the paw of the lion and tears from the mouth of the eagle.

The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. A stream of light, guided by an arrow, rises upwards from the cauldron until it reaches the heart of the Angel; from there, the light branches into a rainbow that falls over her shoulders like a cape. Whereas the card for Gemini depicted a mystic marriage, the card called Art symbolises the consummation of that mystical union. The spiritual idea as expressed by Crowley in his The Book of Thoth (pp. 103) is that an incomplete element is spiritualised only through the assimilation of its equal and opposite.

The means of accomplishment is written in gold lettering upon a large orb, shining like the Sun behind the Angel: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum. “Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.” Alchemists described the stone of the wise or universal medicine variously as a stone, a powder or a tincture. It may be divided into silver and gold or red and white, but its essence is always the same. The law of this wisdom, which cannot be understood by the intellect alone, also governs astrology and magick. As it was written on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

That which is Below is like unto that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the Miracle of the One Essence.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Scorpio and the Tarot of Thoth

The Sun’s entry into Scorpio heralds the beginning of the Halloween festivities. Magically speaking, the season’s elemental focus comes with the nearest full Moon—nature is not bound by the clock and the calendar in quite the same way that we are.

Death XIII (Scorpio)

Death XIII

The Tarot of Thoth designed by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris is faithful to the magical correspondences of the Qabalah and Western Hermetic Tradition. The 12 signs of the Zodiac and their astrological ruling planets are therefore depicted in the 22 Tarot trumps. The Tarot is best known as a fortune telling device, but is a vessel that contains, in symbolic form, the wisdom of ancient times. Crowley called the Tarot card for Scorpio, “A compendium of universal energy in its most secret form.” (The Book of Thoth, pp. 101)

The Tarot trump for Scorpio has been regarded, along with the Halloween festivities, with some horror. For one thing the title of the trump is Death. For another, it is the 13th trump. The esoteric title of the card is more revealing as to its true nature: Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The dual nature of Scorpio is admirably depicted in the design of the card. A skeletal figure is wielding a scythe. With the sweep of the scythe, bubbles appear in which new forms are created. In nature, life and death are two sides of one coin and so Death is shown as a dancing figure, destroying form and structure while simultaneously recreating it. The card is therefore a symbol of transformation and regeneration, very apt for the autumnal months of October and November. To the alchemists, the figure sums up the chemical changes called putrefaction. It was said that the base metal iron could only be changed into gold during the month when the Sun traverses Scorpio. In astrology the fixed water sign Scorpio is ruled by fiery Mars, the energy that breaks down form into its elements—so that new life can be created.

Scorpio actually has three symbols: the Scorpion, the Eagle and the Snake. While the Scorpion symbolises the voluntary submission to inevitable change, the undulations of the Snake symbolise the dual dance of life and death. The Eagle is said to be the higher form of Scorpio, since it has always represented ascendancy over matter or material form. Putrefaction gives off gas or vapour, and this has its parallel in occultism with spirituous non-material substances that are nonetheless tangible to clairvoyance. Ectoplasm or etheric matter is known to act as a medium between the physical world and more tenuous planes of existence.

The head of the Eagle is used as a symbol for alchemical distillation—it therefore represents the sublimation of gross matter. Scorpio is the 8th house or area of influence in astrology. The 8th house governs matters of sex, death and legacies. It therefore sums up all of our memory and experience; at the same time the very nature of Scorpio urges us towards transformation and change.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread

We devised the Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread primarily for the purpose of problem solving, though no doubt it has more subtle uses. The three-card groups allow the Tarot dignities to be used. One advantage of this layout is its simplicity; it is based on the idea that Rajas (Sulphur, action) acts upon Tamas (Salt, inertia) to bring about Sattwas (Mercury, wisdom).

Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread (Ordo Astri)

Alchemical Salt (5 2 8): The inertia that must be overcome; the problem or any difficulties around the question.

Alchemical Sulphur (6 3 9): Activity; the action that is most likely to be taken by the Querent.

Alchemical Mercury (4 1 7): A synthesis of forces; the solution; that which will come to pass.

If desired, a card may be chosen and placed in the centre of the triad before shuffling and laying the other cards, to represent the Querent.


The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread appears, with hints and an example reading, in the Divination section of Stella Tenebrae—Journal of Hermetic Magick Volume One Number 2. You may also wish to see our description of the Thoth 15-card Tarot Spread, here.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Thoth Tarot Spread

The Fifteen-card Tarot spread is sometimes called the “Thoth” Tarot spread, as it seems to have been devised by the publisher of some early editions of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The advantage of this spread is that cards are read in sets of three, so the elemental dignities of the Tarot can be applied. The method of laying out the cards is very attractive, since a widdershins spiral is formed, outward from the centre. Numerically, there is a strong relationship with the Pentagram.(1)

15-card Thoth Tarot Spread

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

The Fifteen-card spread has six cards (centre and lower left) that represent the questioner. This can produce surprising insights, since it is often not realised quite how much the question and its likely outcome is determined by the spiritual, mental and emotional state of the questioner. Here is an example of the cards on the top right and the top left in agreement, from the journal record of an actual divination: 

Tarot Divination (detail)

The cards Adjustment VIII and The Priestess II mirror each other; they are both feminine figures, represented by Libra and the Moon respectively. The Five of Disks mirrors the Prince of Disks; the Ten of Wands mirrors the Nine of Wands. Since the two sets of cards are clearly in agreement, there is a flow or natural development of the future, reading from right to left.

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

Tarot Dignities
Traditionally, the cards on either side are used to evaluate the meaning of the centre card. The elemental qualities of classical Hermeticism are used:

Wands and Cups are inimical
Fire and Water are contrary
Wands and Swords are mutual
Fire and Air are complementary
Wands and Disks are mutual
Fire and Earth are complementary
Cups and Swords are mutual
Water and Air are complementary
Cups and Disks are mutual
Water and Earth are complementary
Swords and Disks are inimical
Air and Earth are contrary

If (for example) a card of Wands has a Wand on either side, it is greatly strengthened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Cup on either side, it is greatly weakened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Sword or Disk card on either side, it is moderately strengthened by those cards, according to their nature.

If a card of Wands has a Cup (inimical) on one side, and a Sword (mutual) on the other side, it is said that the “Sword takes the Cup to the Wand” and the Wand is moderately strengthened according to the nature of the two cards on either side. But if the Wand has on one side a Sword and on the other side a Disk, it is said that the two cards on the outside cancel or neutralise each other, since Swords and Disks are opposite in nature. In that case the two cards on either side have little or no effect on the Wand in the centre.
Trump cards, as a rule, greatly outweigh the small cards; their operation is on a different plane and in a reading they tend to represent spiritual forces or destiny. One must be careful, therefore, when there is a mixture of trumps and small cards. The trump cards correspond to zodiacal, planetary and elemental forces.
Fortune X (for example) corresponds to Jupiter, and so if this card appeared with The Hermit IX, which corresponds to Virgo, the effect would be similar to that of Jupiter in Virgo in an astrological chart. The Tower XVI corresponds to Mars and so if this card appeared with The Empress IV, the trump for Venus, the action would be similar to Mars aspecting Venus in an astrological chart.
The three elemental trumps can be problematical. The Fool 0 (for example) is the primary element of Air. What if this card appears with The Devil XV, corresponding to Capricorn, a cardinal Earth sign? Air and Earth are inimical, yet the trumps are more than elemental; they are composite glyphs that mirror the paths of the Tree of Life. Both cards, in fact, depict an aspect of Pan the All-Begetter. Fortunately the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, can be assigned to the elemental trumps:

Tarot and Outer Planets

The effect of The Devil XV and The Fool 0 together can then be taken as similar to that of Uranus in Capricorn. In any reading one should look first to see if there is a predominance of any element or type. Many Wands in a reading, for example, would indicate much energy and activity. A majority of court cards would indicate that many persons were involved in the question, or there is much social activity. A large number of trumps in a reading indicate forces of destiny or karma involved with the question. 

(1) The number 15 is the grand number of the pentagram as 5 multiplied by the trinity. It is also the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 5, or Σ (1–5) = 15.

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2017 

This article forms part of a tutorial on Tarot divination in the book, Magical TheurgyRituals of the Tarot.  

You may also wish to read our description of the Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread, here. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Magical Hypnosis

To imagine we can be a better person, or that we can enjoy a better life through hypnotising ourselves with ‘positive’ affirmations is to reinforce the self-obsession that is driving the neurosis. The attempt to modify behaviour with hypnosis is akin to an attempt to improve a literary work by scribbling over it.

hypnos (Greek) Sleep
Hypnos is the spirit or god of sleep, whose abode is Erebus, eternal darkness. He is the brother of Thanatos, death, and the son of Nyx, the mother of night. He has no father. His attributes are opium, the poppy and the waters of Lethe (forgfetfulness). He carries an inverted torch, as does Thanatos. 
The modern word “hypnosis”is derived from the Greek hypnos. Note that pistis, “faith” or “trust”, is required from the person (or animal) being subjected to an experiment in hypnosis. The hypnotist becomes as God to the subject or patient, since the procedure requires a level of acceptance and submission usually reserved for deity. It is the exact opposite to the redemption of the soul (Greek psyche) usually associated with faith.(1)
Hypnosis is the drink from the cup of forgetfulness, the waters of Lethe, oblivion. The antidote to the river of Lethe is the river of Mnemosyne and the cup of remembrance.

New Age spirituality does not favour placing any limitations on the self; the individual is free to pass from one mirage to another in the hope of finding an oasis of heart’s desire. Hypnotism—even self-hypnotism—requires submission from the subject of the experiment. Although it may suit the financial and other requirements of the professional therapist or spiritual healer, submission and hypnosis are twin sirens dwelling in the river of Lethe, the cup of oblivion.

Magical Hypnosis or Hyp-Gnosis

Worship then the Khabs (lapwing pillar detail)
Worship then the Khabs

There are some that posit hypnosis as Gnosis. We are informed that hypnosis is the key to magick, the key to it all. The evocation of a spirit to visible appearance, we are told, is only done effectively by gazing into a mirror and hypnotising oneself—or worse, being hypnotised by someone else. To hypnotise oneself in order to apprehend something one believes to be impossible or untrue at the outset is plainly a method by which delusion may be magnified. In fact, the Triangle of Evocation illustrated and described in The Goetia (Lesser Key of Solomon) does not require a mirror; the circle within the triangle supplies a perfect field for skrying and so conjuring a spirit to appear to the eyes of the seer.

Since dhyana—the natural result of sustained concentration—is technically a kind of trance state, this argument against hypnotism could be dismissed as mere semantics. One calls it this, another calls it that—so what? But if that is so, why choose a word that means, “sleep” when the magical condition of mind requires staying alert, being fully conscious and in every way wide awake?

Receptivity is not the same as submission. In the Hermetic tradition the mind is trained in the art of concentration before the intuitive faculty is brought to bear, and even then, images arising in the psyche are regarded with calm indifference. The late 19th century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn insisted that Probationers sign the following pledge:
The Chiefs of the Order do not care to accept as Candidates any persons accustomed to submit themselves as Mediums to the Experiments of Hypnotism, Mesmerism, or Spiritualism; or who habitually allow themselves to fall into a completely Passive condition of Will; also they disapprove of the methods made use of as a rule in such experiments.
The Chiefs of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn failed to honour the pledge themselves—at least, the Order was brought into disrepute as a result, directly or indirectly, of its founder, MacGregor Mathers succumbing to the claims of a fake medium, the infamous Madame Horos. That, and the increasing acceptance (and use) of hypnotism by professional occultists and others, means that discernment over these matters has largely become a thing of the past. Yet what was true then is no less true today. The core teaching of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn does not require adjustment to afford credibility to ‘mind-programmers’, hypnotists and so-called spiritual healers.


(1) Entry for the number 800 from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, Volume Two.

© Oliver St. John 2012

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Monday, 6 August 2012

Isis and Daath: Thelemic Reflections

Traditionally, Da’ath is not a sephira as such. Da’ath is more properly regarded as a conjunction of Chokmah and Binah. As Da’ath has received increasing attention from latter day generations of occultists, it has gradually become treated more like an eleventh sephira, acquiring various attributions in the four worlds of the Qabalah.

Da’ath in the Four Worlds: ShMATh

For Atziluth of Da’ath the names of Chokmah and Binah are joined together to form IAO Elohim.

Gareth Knight, in his Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, gives the traditional Archangels of the Quarters for Briah of Da’ath: Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Auriel. There are good reasons for calling on Auriel alone, though, since Auriel is the keeper of the gateway of Eden. Auriel is placed in Netzach for the same reasons. An alternative name for sounding the depth of Da’ath at the Archangelic level is ISA or ISAIST.

Knight gives the Order of Angels in Yetzirah of Da’ath as Serpents, Seraphim. According to him, clairvoyants have noted a subtle difference between these and the Seraphim of the same name in Geburah.

Sothis or Sirius—the Sun behind the Sun—is given as the mundane chakra for Da’ath. The Hebrew name is ABRQ (Avrek).

Isis and Da’ath

ISA is a special Egyptian name for Isis, and means “fragrance”. Isis is thus identified with spirit. According to the Sethian Gnosis (Thrice Greatest Hermes, collected and translated by G.R.S. Mead), all manifestation depends from a triune source: Light, Darkness and Fragrance or Spirit. Light and dark are not to be understood here as possessing moral qualities. Spirit permeates the light and darkness equally. The three principles create the matrix for form, the equivalent of Binah on the Hermetic Tree of Life.

Isis drawn by Jeff Dahl

The name ISA appears in the third chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, in association with Asar or Osiris. The Egyptian name of Isis is usually transliterated as Asi (or Aset), so ISA is the reverse of this. It seems peculiarly appropriate to have a reversed name in Da’ath; the implication is of following Isis back to her formless source. Isis was always associated with the star Sirius by the ancient Egyptians, since the reappearance of the star after its 70-day occultation heralded the Nile flood. In Greek, ISA means “equilibrium”, suggestive of the way of the Middle Pillar, and by Hebrew Qabalah the name adds to 71, the “image of silence”, as according to Aleister Crowley (777 and other Qabalistic Writings). Failure to keep silence when approaching the abysmal levels of Da’ath gives power to Choronzon or the demon of the Abyss. In simple terms, the human ego, when subjected to the strains and stresses of Da’athian consciousness, fragments and breaks apart. Dissociation is the result, and some forms of so-called mental illness such as schizophrenia come about through the failure of the ego to assimilate an influx of spiritual consciousness. The training of the mind is therefore a prerequisite to any advanced occult or mystic practices. Da’ath is the gate of heaven and is therefore also the gate of hell—perhaps “hell’s mouth” is an appropriate term to use here.

There may be a relation with the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic rune, Isa, which means, “ice” and is sometimes referred to the goddess of the North. The North is the polar region; the stars of the Dragon constellation, or Draco, are understood to be a pathway to immortality for kings or Initiates—but also a fast road to hell for the uninitiated.

In Arabic, Isa is a name of Jesus, and some have thought that Asar (Osiris) and Isa are thereby declared to be as one principle in the Egyptian Book of the Law. This, however, confuses Osiris with Christ (spirit), whereas the union of Asar and Isa is that of the body (Osiris) and soul (Isis). Crowley's notion that Osiris is the formula of Christ as “the dying god” is a flawed one. With the possible exception of Florence Farr, Crowley and other luminaries of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn did not look deeply into the Egyptian mysteries. Osiris dies and then becomes Lord of the Dead in the underworld. Christ goes through torments in the underworld (paralleled by the imprisonment and ordeals of John the Baptist), but then ascends to heaven. As is made clear by the Egyptian Pyramid Texts as well as the Qabalah, “heaven” is not the same as Amentet; it is not located in the underworld. If anything, Christ has more in common with Hermes, and there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that his story came directly from the Egyptian Hermetic tradition. Crowley, during his Paris working, Opus II, was deeply inspired and surprised by the realisation that Christ is synonymous with Hermes-Mercury. If Crowley had fully adopted this idea, though, he would have had to abandon the unwieldy notion of three Aeons, which by that time was deeply embedded in his writings on Thelema. The way of Osiris in ancient Egypt was the popular folk belief. The Ka of the deceased had to be kept alive in the underworld by the making of continuous offerings. The cult of the cosmic Ra was the ‘higher’ discipline, reserved for priests and pharaohs. It compares with so-called High Magick and is undoubtedly the wisdom veiled in the Egyptian Book of the Law. In ancient Egypt, the two systems were worked side by side according to the understanding of the person or the degree of their Initiation.

ISA is the means of spiritual survival or passing through the gate of Da’ath. As the void that is the portal for the outflowing of force into manifestation, Da’ath is the ultimate feminine. Magically, Isis is the power of speech or utterance, of the word. The return to Nuit or absolute consciousness means reversing the flow of force into form and this is accomplished through the magical means of Isis or ISA, the Shakti power of the universe.

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© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Thelemic Astrology

Astrology and astronomy are both rooted in an empirical observation of the celestial sphere. They define the zodiac as a circle of twelve 30-degree ‘signs’ of celestial longitude along the ecliptic—which is the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The zodiac is a celestial coordinate system that takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun at the spring equinox as the origin of longitude.

There are two main types of astrological systems: the Sidereal system, used in Hindu astrology, and the Tropical system, most widely used today in Western astrology. Each system uses a different definition of the astrological year. Both divide the ecliptic into signs named after the constellations to which they are associated. However, while the Sidereal system defines the signs based on the fixed stars, the Tropical system defines it by the position of the spring equinox—which is the intersection of the ecliptic with the celestial equator. Determined by the spring equinox, the Tropical system is sensitive to the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, the axial precession of the earth, whereas the Sidereal system is not. The two systems consequently slightly drift apart from each other over time (about 1.4 arc degrees per century).

The precession of the equinoxes has a number of observable effects and these are taken into consideration by Tropical astrology. Firstly, the positions of the South and North celestial poles appear to move in circles against the backdrop of fixed stars, completing one circuit in 25,772 years (as measured in the year 2000). This means that while today Polaris reigns as the earth’s North Star, the polar ruler will change in time and other stars will assume the heavenly throne. The South Pole is currently in darkness, but over time precession will also cause bright stars to illuminate it. Shifts in the celestial poles produce corresponding shifts in the apparent orientation of the whole star field viewed from a particular position on earth. The North and South Stars are hidden powers that bend the destiny of the company of heaven—the star-gods or children of Nuit that are unveiled in the Thelemic transmission, the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis.

Axial precession means that the position of the earth in her orbit around the Sun at the solstices and equinoxes, or any other time defined relative to the seasons, slowly changes. Tropical astrology, adopted since Graeco-Egyptian times, portrays the heavenly metamorphoses at the heart of the Graeco-Egyptian Liber AL vel Legis. Thelema defines a type of consciousness emerging through precession. The key to its activation is the Egyptian Hormaku, the Sphinx of Nature; its law is Thelema, the law of love under will.

Aeon of Hormaku or Aquarius, "Hermetic Astrology"

The Tropical Zodiac

The system of astrology generally in use today is geocentric and is called the Tropical Zodiac. The twelve signs of the zodiac take their names from twelve of the constellations that have corresponding mythological and spiritual associations. The Tropical Zodiac is a picture of the heavens as seen from this planet. The picture is governed by a variety of factors including the twenty-four hours of the earth’s daily rotation and her yearly orbit around the Sun. Over the course of the year delineated as a circle, two opposite poles correspond to the times when the sun’s angle of declination causes day and night to be of equal length. These are the spring equinox on or near 21st March, and the autumn equinox on or near 21st September. At the equinoxes, the ecliptic path of the sun crosses the equator. Another pair of opposite poles corresponds to the sun’s northward and southward movement through the year:

  1. The highest point of the sun’s declination at the midsummer solstice. At this time the days are longer compared to the nights, and the Sun is at his furthest point north of the eastern horizon.
  2. The lowest point of the sun’s declination at the midwinter solstice. At this time the nights are longer than the days, and the Sun is at his furthest point south of the eastern horizon.

Aries the Ram is the starting point of the zodiac. It signifies the onset of spring around 21st March, when day and night are of equal length. After the spring equinox, the length of days continues to increase, climaxing at the summer solstice. Daylight then starts to recede and, by the time the sun enters Libra the Scales on 21st September, the year resumes perfect balance as day and night are equal again before autumn’s decline towards the winter solstice.

The zodiac defines the solar year from the earth’s perspective. The sun is the central factor in the zodiac. As he goes on his course he appears to pass through each sign—each 30-degree portion of a 360-degree circle. As spirit is the organising force at the centre of the four elements in the microcosm—as symbolised geometrically by the five-pointed pentagram—the sun is the central and dominant force among the twelve signs of the zodiac that are ruled by the sun, moon and planets. The seven astrological planets symbolise the macrocosm, the greater universe, geometrically represented by the six-pointed hexagram or the six central sephiroth on the Hermetic Tree of Life with Tiphereth, the Sun, at the centre.


This article forms part of the Introduction to the book, Hermetic Astrology.