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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.

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