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The man who writes books on a Thelema that no beast shall divine. Founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium. Member of Ordo Typhonis since 2000 e.v. More articles and essays are posted at https://ordoastri.org/ and https://tantrika.co.uk/

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Magick of the Capricorn Solstice

The 26th path is called the Renewing Intelligence. The Tarot trump assigned to the path is The Devil XV. The esoteric title is The Lord of the Gates of Matter: Child of the Forces of Time. The Devil portrayed in most Tarot decks is a hybrid creature with bat-like wings, somewhat akin to Baphomet, the goat-foot God said to be worshipped by the Knights Templars.

Crowley Thoth Tarot Atu XV, The Devil

Crowley-Thoth Tarot trump The Devil XV

Aleister Crowley's design identifies this Devil with Pan, the All-Begetter, and it is a brazenly phallic portrayal. The devilish goat has a third eye in the middle of his forehead. At the top of the Tarot trump is shown the rings of Saturn—for Capricorn is ruled by that planet in astrology. Saturn may also be identified with the ancient Egyptian Set, the ass-headed God of the desert. The desert is a symbol of the spiritual wilderness that seekers of truth and knowledge have entered into since time immemorial. The Hebrew name for the planet Saturn is Shabbathai—and from that word was derived the legendary Sabbath of the Witches. The image of Capricorn represents creative energy in its most material form. To quote from Crowley’s The Book of Thoth:

The card represents Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter. It is the Tree of Life as seen against a background of the exquisitely tenuous, complex, and fantastic forms of madness, the divine madness of spring, already foreseen in the meditative madness of winter; for the Sun turns northwards on entering this sign … In every symbol of this card there is the allusion to the highest things and most remote. Even the horns of the goat are spiral, to represent the movement of the all-pervading energy.

According to The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:

The 26th path of Ayin connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Hod, the sphere of Mercury, and is imaged forth by the 15th Tarot key, The Devil. The title of the path afforded by the Sepher Yetzirah is the Renewing Intelligence, referring to the renewal and perpetuity of all created forms. On the human level, the renewal refers to the adaptation that is required so the intellect does not atrophy—for the identification of the personal ego with the forms or constructs that appear in Hod increases the limiting or restricting power of Saturn, the ruler of the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. As it is written in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41:

The word of Sin is Restriction.

It is the desire to become free of material limitations that drives man to seek freedom, yet it is necessary to understand the principles of nature and their operation in the world before any limits can be transcended—the prime limitation being man himself, and his ignorance of natural laws. The magical powers of the 26th path are the Witches Sabbath (so-called) and the Evil Eye.

The Dweller on the Threshold

Saturn or Set has many forms and can be viewed from infinite perspectives. His nature is something of a paradox. The Tarot picture for the month of Sagittarius, Art XIV, depicts an Angel, while the Tarot Atu for the month of Capricorn commencing with the solstice, depicts a Devil. This Angel and Devil are two sides of one coin, a dual expression of the soul and of that very quaint appellation, the ‘Holy Guardian Angel’. The trickster, the shapeshifter, the adversary, the opposer, the shadow, the stranger, the ‘other’ are all names for Set, Saturn or the Devil, whose role in Initiation is so central that sometimes he is termed as simply, the Lord of Initiation. Another epithet is the Dweller on the Threshold. The following is an instructional piece on the Dweller on the Threshold, reproduced from our course in practical Qabalah:

While it is true that aspirants to any contacted magical Order are tested by what are poetically termed the Lords of Initiation, our students are not asked to take any oath or obligation that would incur a trial by fire. Nonetheless there is something that we call the Dweller on the Threshold. As soon as a foot is placed on the path, the Dweller on the Threshold will appear. The shape or form of this Devil is unique to each individual since it is a phantom produced by the person’s karma.(1) While this deters many from continuing the work they started with such enthusiasm and inner-conviction, it is in fact the first stirring of real Initiation.

Whether Initiation really takes hold or not is largely determined by the way the person responds to the Dweller on the Threshold. There will be help if that help is recognised for what it is. There will most certainly be hindrance, obstruction and even seduction—the powerfully compelling voices that urge us to give this up as it will do us no good, that we have made the wrong choice or there is a better, more authentic discipline further down the road. The Dweller on the Threshold may take the form of some perceived or genuine misfortune, or a general sense of unease or misgiving. It may take the form of a migraine, one of those ‘flu viruses that is hard to shake off, the incessant demands of a spouse, a difficult child, a manipulative mother, a bullying father or boss at work. Money can be a considerable ‘Dweller’—whether there is too little, or too much of it. An outbreak of supernatural phenomena quite often occurs with those that have awakening psychic sensitivity—the ‘things that go bump in the night’. The Initiates are those who persist, that possess the will and the resolve to keep on. Perhaps there is something else too, the “factor infinite and unknown” referred to in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 32. It is said that many are called but few are chosen. Paradoxically it is the aspirant that must use their free will to choose in the first place.

One must strive to understand the Dweller on the Threshold. There is a caveat: The Oath and Task of a Magister Templi is “to interpret every phenomenon as a direct dealing of God with my soul”. The New Age movement with its voracious appetite for assimilating and trivialising the threads from all wisdom traditions has tended to encourage its followers to adopt that particular jnanamudra without any training and preparation and without any supporting philosophical basis or structure. To apply such a method at the beginning of the study and work will bring that study and work to a swift conclusion.


(1) The Sanskrit word karma means “action”. It generally refers to the phenomenon of cause and effect that appears to govern the machinations of the material universe.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2017

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

The Tarot trump for the 25th path, the Intelligence of Probation, is Art XIV, depicting the Holy Guardian Angel performing a work of transmutation on the soul. The full title of the path is The Daughter of the Reconcilers: the Bringer-forth of Life.
Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel: Thoth Tarot trump Art XIV
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. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed in the Tarot card.

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 are shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy are 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:
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.[1]

Sagittarius and the Flaming Sword

The 25th path of Samekh connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon. The title of the path (Sepher Yetzirah) is the Intelligence of Probation or Trial. It is only by test, experiment, trial and experience that the harmony and beauty of Tiphereth can become permanently fixed in Yesod, the Foundation in the natural soul or body for the Ruach, the intelligent mind. The operation of the Great Work can only proceed if the aspirant practices detachment, indifference to phenomena, and refuses to identify their self with the actions of the personality and the events that seem to be taking place around. The ‘indifference’ is not to be thought of as lack of attention; in fact, the level of observation is intensified through the meditation practice. The magical power of the 25th path is the Power of Transmutations.

The deity we invoke when the Sun enters Sagittarius is the Egyptian Nephthys, sister of Isis. Nephthys is the principle of dematerialisation (waning moon) and dissolution of the ego or ‘body of the king’—a process that must begin no sooner than a foot is placed on the path. For that reason, in traditional mysticism the Intelligence of Probation is often likened to a Dark Night of the Soul. The 25th path crosses the veil called Paroketh.

Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

Most, if not all religions, have sensibly avoided trying to define ‘God’. As soon as the Absolute is explained in dualistic terms, ambiguous limitations are imposed. No less the Holy Guardian Angel, a term long used in the Western Mystery Tradition. The Holy Guardian Angel is the Messenger or Communicant of the divine Absolute. As with God, it is wise to limit ourselves to negative terms—what the Holy Guardian Angel is not. Scriptures and magical grimoires use allegory to convey truth that cannot be put into words. Promises of unlimited treasure, of worldly and supernatural powers, have lured many fools while at the same time providing evidence for the sceptic that it is all superstitious nonsense.

There are some deities that closely fulfil the divine messenger role of the Holy Guardian Angel, of which a few are: Dionysus, Jesus, Krishna and Horus. These names are perhaps religious and cultural modifications of one type, a god that is able to appear (or incarnate) in human form.
The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is assigned to Malkuth, yet the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is the exclusive task of an Adeptus Minor. It is impossible not to use mystical allegory: the ‘bride’ or soul in Malkuth, the daughter or princess of the Kingdom, must be wedded to the ‘prince’ or Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth. Experiencing the solar centre of the Hermetic Tree does not involve ordinary clairvoyance or magical powers, so-called. The ‘Heart Girt with a Serpent’ is a metaphor for the impersonal cosmic principle fully realised as the sole source of personal existence. It is that which the ancient Egyptians called ‘Intelligence of the Heart’. This cannot be arrived at through a process of reason or argument unless the sword of reason is turned against itself.

Where belief begins, knowledge ends. Faith and belief are quite different words in the language of mysticism. Faith in the spiritual sense has more to do with acceptance of the path than adherence to dogma or fixation on some particular class of vision. The Gnostics ascertained that faith (pistis) is necessary to open the heart so that knowledge (gnosis), if it should come, will find a place to dwell. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 58, the cosmic principle Nuit informs her disciple that:
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.
The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel may come about through subtle changes of consciousness over a long period of time, or it may come as a shattering realisation—or a series of such explosive revelations. There is no architectural blueprint that can be applied to all. The attainment of this primary goal of magick will not confer omniscience—neither does any magical grade or degree—and unless discipline and vigilance is continued, there is still a risk of falling from the path. What does this mean, ‘falling from the path’? The ‘Black Brother’ is a term that can apply equally to the magician or mystic that has lost heart, or the devotee of material sciences that seeks to suppress spiritual knowledge through dogmatic denial of its existence. Either way, the person becomes shut up in their ego, and all energy is utilised towards reinforcing the delusion. In his book Nightside of Eden, Kenneth Grant likened this to obsession by the Qliphoth of the 12th path of the Hermetic Tree, the path of Tarot Atu I, The Magus.[2] All the force of the will is concentrated on the ego, and is utilised for the reinforcement of personal identity. On the other hand, the Queen of Space rewards the aspirant that stays the path, as declared in Liber, I: 53:
This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart and my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss.
It is said that all paths end in Mystery. Surviving the ordeals of initiation defines the path in a way that only the individual can truly understand. When the knowledge is firmly embedded in the heart through prolonged meditation, aspiration and vigilance, and is carried through into the daily life and work, then Nuit’s ‘kiss’ may at last confer the gift of certainty to her chosen one.


1. From the ancient Egyptian Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.
2. Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden, Part Two, Chapter 2 [Starfire Publishing].

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Lineage of the Magi

Authenticity, validation and legitimisation are essential to the world of law, business, government, politics, publishing and finances. Legitimisation conveys certain rights and privileges. It conveys authority.

Lineage: 'Unofficial' Order of Astrum Argenteum The ‘real’, the authentic, is a signature of trust, so that, for example, a person may be guided in their investments. When such validation is transferred to the realm of the esoteric, then the whole subject becomes somewhat less than transparent. For example, the Apostolic Succession of Bishops is fundamental to the Roman Catholic doctrine. An unbroken line of patriarchs can be traced, according to the Vatican, back to the apostles of Jesus Christ. This conveys sacramental authority. According to the Epistle of Clement, the apostles appointed bishops as successors. They then directed the bishops to appoint their own successors. Since the Church has for centuries been divided into factions, many of these refuse to acknowledge the validity of the others. Legitimacy then exists within each exclusive group, while it is denied to all others. The arguments have continued for millennia, and will continue to perpetuity.

The causal chain quickly breaks apart when it serves to yoke an esoteric principle. Thus in some of the older Tarot decks, the 15th Atu depicts the polar twins, Adam and Eve, bound to the altar of the Devil of material and temporal power. The chain only holds Adam and Eve while they remain enthralled by the power of the wealthy governors of the world and their armies of obedient priests, bureaucrats and militia. Looked at another way, the Devil is simply the human ego, where identity is the primary concern.

This situation is by no means exclusive to the Roman Church. Magical Orders have followed the phantom of Apostolic Succession even to the present day. Each magical ‘brand’ makes capital of the trust invested by the faithful, while denouncing the others as charlatans. And so the lurching dance of the official apostles of verified truth surges ever onward, all about the altar of the Devil of World Illusion, spurred on by the trumpets and drums of the slaves that serve mammon.

Faith in ‘lineage’ or Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over occult communities for centuries. To seek external validation or legitimisation is magical failure. As declared in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 5,
Behold! the rituals of the old time are black.

Cloud Upon the Sanctuary

The Order of AA or Astrum Argenteum is the term coined by Aleister Crowley for his continuation of the Rosicrucian system of degrees based on the Hermetic Tree of Life. That system was the legacy of the Golden Dawn of SL MacGregor and Moina Mathers, founded in the late 19th century. In the first number of The Equinox Journal, Crowley presented ‘One Star in Sight’. This was his rewritten version of an earlier work by German philosopher Karl von Eckartshousen, The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. The work was originally one of Christian mysticism, expressing the inner spiritual tradition of the West in allegorical terms.

Lineage: Vault of Christian Rosenkreutz

The use of such allegory already existed in the Rosicrucian tradition, for example, Fama Fraternitatis (1614). The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary refers to a mysterious Elect, which has existed since the beginning of time. Its vision of a future theocracy, embracing the world, contains echoes of systems of governance that have already existed historically but are swathed in the mist of legend—as for example, that of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

While the terms used are allegorical—indeed, extremely romantic—it has always been the work of esotericism to make contact with what are called ‘inner plane intelligences’. Some, such as Crowley, have even sought to prove Their existence, though all such attempts must end in failure. The stone of the wise is not a material substance and cannot be proved by the means of rational scientism, though it may be known. Karl von Eckartshousen resigned from the Bavarian Order of Illuminati when he learned of their insistence that enlightenment could only be obtained through rationalism. Crowley, on the other hand, in rewriting Eckartshousen’s work to suit his own designs, and to assume leadership of the Golden Dawn, declared ‘Scientific Illuminism’ as the true path.

The passing of the torch or beacon of light from one person to another, veiled in secrecy and silence, was not meant to refer to Apostolic Succession after the manner of Roman Catholic bishops. Such a succession or ‘lineage’ nonetheless holds considerable power for those who believe in it. Consequently there will always be those who claim it, so as to wield power and authority over others. Lineage then becomes, as with any much sought after commodity, a contentious subject. Argument sometimes leads to litigation, though more often than not the protagonists give vent to their rage through vilification and slander—much in the way that tomb robbers may argue and fight over the booty.

The question of authentication by lineage will nonetheless continue to hold a power of allurement, or ‘magical glamour’. The idea is intensely magnetic; its charge comes not from history or facts, but from romance and allegory, which has always been the language of the mysteries. The analogous mode of thought is a means of approaching truth that cannot be explained or described in rational terms without veiling that truth. The veil then becomes, as it were, a false Graal or object of the quest for knowledge and wisdom. Men and women may spend their whole lives pursuing such an object, for it is made luminous in the silver rays of hope; it is exalted in the golden halo of imagining. No sooner is it grasped than it becomes a handful of dry leaves that turns to dust, to be blown in the wind.

Lineage and the Blood of Saints

The mystery of blood and lineage, or Apostolic Succession, is best explained through an examination of the 15th and 24th paths on the Hermetic Tree of Life. These correspond to the Tarot trumps The Star XVII (Aquarius) and Death XIII (Scorpio). The placing of the Star of Nuit, Aquarius, on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration.

Lineage and Blood of Saints: Star XVII and Death XIII Thoth Tarot
The 15th path of the Star of Aquarius is the intelligence linking Chokmah (Wisdom) with Tiphereth (Beauty) on the Tree of Life. The path is called The Constituting Intelligence, of which it is said, “The essence of creative force arises in pure darkness”.[1] The ‘pure darkness’ is the thread of the infinite Ain Soph, the formless, limitless space that is the numinous source of all. The power of manifesting or begetting by division is the power of Nuit, the Goddess of the Stars. Thus, in the Tarot trump of the path, a woman, naked as truth herself, pours forth the waters of life from two vases. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59, Nuit declares:
My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.
Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—that ‘creative force that arises in pure darkness’. The ‘darkness’ is more than merely an absence of light. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life or visible light, and the Tree of Death, Night or Nuit—the invisible light or pure essence. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures. Nuit asserts, however, that her creative essence is not of blood—for her function is not to perpetuate life forms on the physical plane. For this reason it was necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths of the Hermetic Tree as according to the cryptic instruction of Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57.
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.
By the change to the order of trumps, the starry 15th path or ‘window of imagining’ corresponds to Aquarius and Nuit, our Lady of the Stars. Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation. Nuit is the Egyptian goddess concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature. Her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny, but that of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or Sun-Star of Nuit.

The root of the Hebrew word for ‘resemblance’ or ‘imagination’ (DMINVI) means, ‘blood’. It is the self-replicating formula of all created beings personified by the ancient Egyptian god Besz. The Imaginative Intelligence of the 24th path of Scorpio works from the centre of the self in Tiphereth towards the desire plane of Netzach in order to bring about new modes of expression, vehicles for the self. On the way of return to Nuit, such vehicles are transcended and broken down—thus the full title of the Tarot trump associated with the 24th path is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The activity of this path comes about through the power of projecting mental images or thought-forms. The self-replicating formula is related to the creation of a magical ‘child’. This takes place through emergence, the process by which a network of interactions between individuals becomes an entity in itself. Such a complex, adaptive system transmits a particular current, vibration or wave pattern. Thus, spiritual regeneration, the occult formation of a magical Khu as opposed to an egregore sustained by a blood line is well illustrated by the principle of wave patterns in physics—or the astrological glyph of Aquarius, the ancient Egyptian determinative for Nuit or ‘heaven’.

The proper role and function of a magical Order is to serve others in the Great Work. The role of the members of such an organisation is to assist men and women with their initiation. The service, if freely given, does not require external validation from patriarchs or peers. True initiation cannot be given, bestowed or conferred by any man or woman to any other. What can be passed on, given or validated in that way is worthless in spiritual terms. In fact, it is worse than that, for it conveys self-importance and, ultimately, betrayal for the soul—a bitter cup indeed. Investment of power in lineage is therefore a misdirection of the will and a wasting of the energy of the self.

If we can free our minds from the archaic limitations of the rituals of ‘blood’ we may find that in the path of the Imaginative Intelligence, in the emergence of the Khabs and Khu, is hidden the stone of the wise and elixir of life. The stone or jewel is not a remedy for the inevitable afflictions of the mortal life. It is far more than that. It is the opening of the way that leads to ultimate transcendence of the earth-bound limitations of time and death.


1. See the entry for number 15, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth

© Oliver St. John 2018, 2019
This is an abridgment from the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs

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Scorpio Lord of Death and Resurrection

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Scorpio: Lord of Death and Resurrection

The Tarot trump for Scorpio is Death XIII, which is placed on the 24th path of Nun on the Hermetic Tree of Life. The esoteric title of the key is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The dual nature of Scorpio is depicted in the design of the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot card: A skeletal figure is wielding a scythe. With the sweep of the scythe bubbles appear in which new forms are created.

Crowley Thoth Tarot Atu Death XIII

Crowley Thoth Tarot Trump Death XIII: Lord of Death and Resurrection

Death is shown as a dancing figure, destroying form and structure while simultaneously recreating it, for in nature life and death are two sides of one coin. The card is therefore a symbol of transformation and regeneration, very apt for the months of October and November in the northern hemisphere. In terms of magical alchemy, the figure sums up the chemical changes called putrefaction. It is said that the base metal iron can 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. Iron is the Hermetic correspondence of Mars, while gold is that of the Sun.

Scorpio has three symbols: the Scorpion, the Eagle and the Snake. The Hebrew letter nun, ascribed to the path of Scorpio, superseded the much older letter nahash—“a serpent”—that in later times became identified with evil. 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 change and transformation.

Scorpio and The Flaming Sword

Here is the entry for path 24, Scorpio, from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:

The 24th path is The Child of the Great Transformers: the Lord of the Gate of Death
The 24th path of Nun connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Netzach, the sphere of Venus, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key Death XIII; the 24th path is called (in the Sepher Yetzirah) the Intelligence of Resemblance or the Imaginative Intelligence; the root of the Hebrew word for “resemblance” or “imagination” (DMINVI) means “blood”; it is the self-replicating formula of all created beings personified by the ancient Egyptian God Besz; the Imaginative Intelligence of path 24 works from the centre of the self in Tiphereth towards the desire plane of Netzach in order to bring about new modes of expression, vehicles for the self; on the way of return such vehicles are transcended and broken down—thus the full title of the Tarot trump associated with the 24th path is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death; the activity of the 24th path comes through the power of projecting mental images; if in the attempt to fulfil desire on its own plane too much occult emphasis is placed on the action or ‘doing’ aspect of the human will then unwitting obsession is all too frequently the result; the magical power of the 24th path is that of Necromancy

The self-replicating formula is related to the creation of a magical ‘child’(1):
The Typhonian Mysteries related to the primordial vibration of the Mother lie at the root of the propagation of life and consciousness. This unfolds by means of self-replication. Self-replication, the very principle of wave patterns, is the core impulse of the Khabs represented by the dwarf god, Besz. The dwarf-self, Khabs or Ape of Thoth are symbols of the bindu seed placed within an organism for the purpose of self-replication. This takes place through emergence, the process by which a network of interactions between individuals becomes an entity in itself, forming a complex adaptive system transmitting a particular current, vibration or wave pattern.
The Khu is the environment, whether physical or non-physical, into which travels the Ophidian wave informing the self-replicating, self-evolving system. The complexity of an environment is related to the level of sentience or self-awareness of its individual components, as sentience allows the organism to define its status in relation to its environment. The formula of the conscious self-replication or ‘aping’ of the dwarf-self is that of the opening of the Eye of Set, the perineal chakra through which sentience extends backwards to the preconceptual energies of the star [Khabs]. It thus allows them to penetrate the self-replicating system in the form of a child from the belly of the individual organism, a child whom the Initiate may then follow to the end of time.
The creation of such a child is indicated in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 55–56:
The child of thy bowels, he shall behold them. Expect him not from the East, nor from the West; for from no expected house cometh that child.
Aleister Crowley nonetheless sought after a physical human son that would continue his lineage.


(1) Text quoted from The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga.

© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2017

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Equinox of Maat: the Balance of the Year

When the Sun enters Libra at the Equinox, the days and nights are equal in length. Soon the days will be shortening and the nights lengthening as we, in the northern hemisphere, journey towards the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere the situation is reversed; the days will be lengthening and the nights shortening, as the journey begins towards the height of summer.

Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot Atu Adjustment VIII

Equinox of Maat: Thoth Tarot trump Adjustment VIII

The Tarot trump for Libra is Adjustment VIII, depicting the Egyptian goddess Ma’at. A young woman is masked and bearing on her forehead the uraeus serpent. She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Ma’at, and is perfectly poised upon her toes. In her hands is a magical sword, with the point downwards. She is The Daughter of the Lords of Truth, the Ruler of the Balance. She represents the absorption and transmutation of all experience in the flowing forth of continuous manifestation. She is the mistress of creation and destruction, and the balance of light and darkness. She is cosmic law, and the law of nature: truth, twofold, and the immutable law of the universe. Her powers are the works of Justice and Equilibrium.

Black and White
Day and Night
North and South
East and West
Let us find Ma’at in all things!

There is a popular notion that any affliction suffered in this life must owe to some ‘karmic debt’ incurred in a previous life. Let us dispel this myth, for the rule of Ma’at is not in any way a moral or ethical law. The law of nature is exact; we must not confuse this with any notions of human justice based on morality—if we do then we confuse this idea of karma and make little tin gods of ourselves.

The Oracle of Maat

Behold! I am the Eye of my father, Ra. I am the one in whom the word is accomplished. I am the Bride of Tahuti and the Measure of the Universe. I am truth, and the feather is my symbol. To pass my door, you must justify every part of your soul, and you must visit the beautiful fields of the grasshoppers. You shall bathe in the pool where the Sailors of Ra in his sun-boat bathe. Purify yourself in my name, and come before me as Horus Triumphant. For I stand upon one side of Ra in the ark of the heavens and Tahuti stands upon the other. And unless you have found the secret that I have hidden in the earth, then you shall not pass my gates. But if you know all these things, and if you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra, and if you are pure—then Tahuti shall call your name! And you shall be known in the palace of the starry ones, and shall live forever and forever. (1)

Ma’at is the goddess that presides over the weighing of the heart ceremony, and is the “Straight One”, the principle of Perfect Truth and the Balance of the Universe. She is clothed in emerald green and wears the crown of double plumes. The feather is her symbol, and the Ankh of Life. Ma’at is the Eye of Ra, the Sun, and is the bride and consort of Thoth or Tahuti, the Egyptian Hermes-Mercury, the god of magick and of magick words and writing—the Word or Logos. The Neters or Gods are the personification of impersonal principles. Ma’at, especially, is a cosmic principle. The ancient Egyptians loved puns, the play on words, and there is one here, where Ma’at says, “If you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra…” One of the epithets of Ma’at was “The Me”, the Measure of all things. One must find the measure, the “me” that is Ma’at , in the heart, the centre of all.

Ma’at is the Eye of Ra, and the secret hidden in the heart of Ra—she is his daughter, after all, and the apple of his eye. As with students, a good pupil is one in the centre of the eye, one that beholds, yet is a void, an emptiness—therefore receptive, ‘one who beholds’, capable of true meditation. Also one who hears—the human ear was shaped by the sounds, not the other way round. The heart itself is the void place of spirit. An Egyptian hieroglyph for the heart (Ab) is a pot or vessel and the handles are the ‘ears’. The ‘eye’ is the emptiness inside. Nuit wears a pot on her head, her name, “Nu”; she is the Holy Graal. Everything about Ma’at is double, and the Egyptians usually had two of everything, male and female Gods, Neters, everything. Ma’at presides over the Hall of Dual Manifestation, and everything in nature is double, there is ‘no-one’ in truth. The whole power of Egyptian magical spells is in the words; to know they are true words and to speak them forth is the perfect Truth that is equal to Ma’at.

Equinox: The Egyptian Goddess Maat, Ruler of the Balance


The depiction of Ma’at with a single feather is from Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, Volume 1, pp. 418–419.

(1) The Oracle of Ma’at is from Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light, Volume VI.

© Oliver St John 2013; revised 2017 

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Virgo: Lamp and Staff of the Hermit

Virgo is the sign of the pure maiden, the inviolate sceptre—which is all a way of veiling with words and images an inexpressible truth. The yod, bindu, flame or seed-star that is the letter of the 20th path and Tarot trump The Hermit IX on the Hermetic Tree is Hadit, the giver of Life, the animator of all things that live and move and that have their being.

Thoth Tarot Atu The Hermit IX

Hermetic Light Magick of Thelema Blog: Tarot Atu The Hermit IX

The Tarot image for this path has the esoteric title, Prophet of the Eternal: Magus of the Voice of Power. According to The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, in the commentary on the wisdom texts of the Sepher Yetzirah:

The 20th path of Yod connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Hermit IX. The path is called the Intelligence of Will since it is the stream of light or intelligence that forms the innermost structures of the mind or intellect in man; the Intelligence of Will is called thus “because it forms all patterns, and to know this Intelligence is to know the whole reality of the Primordial Wisdom”. The knowledge of the spiritual will constitutes the full realisation of the cosmic purpose or meaning in all things; on this path arises the possibility of knowing and doing the True Will, as it is termed in the cults of Thelema.

The Tarot picture for this path depicts a hermit, for Hermes is the Greek deity that the Romans called Mercury. Hadit is Mercury in the highest—or most simple or abstract—form. Mercury is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign of Virgo, and Virgo is unique in the zodiac in that Mercury rules her sign and is also exalted therein. The lamp of the hermit is a metaphor for the Hermetic Light, which he veils from the world. His staff is the energy, the Occult Force, which he applies with strict vigilance and economy of means towards the Great Work. Behind him is Cerberus the three-headed hound of hell. Cerberus, the son of Typhon, doubles as both scourge and Guardian of the Gate—for he prevents those that have become ensnared in the underworld from ever escaping.

The mundane character of Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is all about the particulars, the details of every-thing. The conceptual mind, driven forwards by the scourge of Hadit, yet thrown back into the abyss by the son of Typhon, breeds and begets more and more infernal children. Thus Conceptual Art is now the predominant doctrine in today’s academic institutions. It is a sign or omen that the analytical mind has attained its full immersion in the realm of matter at its lowest or most dense level.

At this material extremity of the human mind, the situation depicted in the minor Tarot card called the Ten of Swords comes about. The human heart or soul is broken up into fragments that are blasted, blown and scattered through the echoing emptiness of space—torn apart by the divisive power of the sword of the reasoning mind.

As a race, we are still in the aftermath of the explosion of the first atom bomb—a point that was frequently made by Kenneth Grant in his Typhonian Trilogies. We live in an age that trembles before the terrifying shadow of the Ape of Thoth as it is depicted in the Tarot trump assigned to Hermes-Mercury. The trauma of that tremendous atom-smashing event, that has rended apart far more than even physical matter, now continues to reverberate on the plane of mind. The cell phones, the computers and other digital devices that are now the plague-fetishes of our times are no more than ‘particular’ vehicles of expression for the lasting imprint of that hellish atomic atrocity upon the collective intelligence of humanity. That singular event demonstrated that the most clever and subtle scientific minds the race could produce were only, in the end, capable of producing senseless, barbaric mass-destruction on a scale never before imagined.

The fragmented atom sweeps matter away in a titanic and lightning-fast cloud of fire and smoke, yet the very first test of its unleashed destructive power tore open the fabric of space and time. A crack was then opened up in the delicate membrane that encircles the planet—the invisible egg of light that once served as a barrier or ring-pass-not against the intrusion of those from ‘Outside’, as Kenneth Grant terms it. That is why The Fool 0 that Frieda Harris had painted for the highest path of Aleph on the Hermetic Tree wears a mask of madness and horror—for he has opened a veil that was once so tightly drawn to appear seamless, and therefore invisible to mortal eyes. What is the secret that the Fool beholds? It is himself that he sees, hurtling downwards towards the abyss.

The configuration of stars and planets signifies that we have truly entered a new era. It is an era in which every Initiate must conserve all of their energy and direct it towards the Great Work. Only then will they succeed in rising up above that which is metaphorically termed, the waters of the Nile flood.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Lion-serpent of Summer

The 19th path of Teth the Lion-serpent connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Geburah, the sphere of Mars, and is imaged forth by the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot key Lust XI. The path is called the Intelligence of the Secret of all Spiritual Activities or the Occult Intelligence.

Leo the Lion-serpent: Thoth Tarot trump Lust XI
The 19th path of the Lion-serpent is the first that is wholly beneath the Abyss when descending, and the last before the Abyss when ascending the Tree. It is therefore the secret ruler and governor of all that is below, even as it receives the influence (mezla) from that which is above. The earlier versions of the 11th Tarot trump, such as the first printed Tarot of Marseille, depict a curious form of what the ancient Egyptians termed as the ‘Opening of the Mouth’. The woman appears to be forcing the mouth of a lion or other beast open. This is an image of the tearing open of the Gate of Knowledge, Da’ath—something that requires great spiritual strength and courage to do without suffering calamity, since there is a high risk of obsession by the flow of images on this high-powered path. The secret of the path is that visible nature veils or conceals the numinous source of all.

The magical power of the 19th path is the Power of Training Wild Beasts, which is the art of deriving oracles from snakes and women. The power of hypnotism is also associated with the snake. The snake of light, or Lion-serpent, extends from the base of the spine to the medulla oblongata where the spinal column enters the brain at the back of the head. Occultly, the serpent then forms the third eye chakra. The secret of the 19th path is known to magi, and has been intuited by those that have travelled the intellectual path to its limits. To those seeking the realms beyond the Abyss, every bodhisattva is a lion in the road, an obstacle to the attainment of Gnosis. To be saved by Crowley is no better than being sent to hell by Jesus.

Lion-serpent of Teth

Over the course of time, the letter teth evolved so that it came to mean ‘serpent’. Although the serpent of old times was always nahash, the letter was banished from the 24th path and nun, ‘a fish’ substituted. The repression of the serpent or Occult Force owed largely to the distortions of the biblical book of Genesis.

Circle Cross 'Mark of the Beast' Determinative
The early Semitic and Cretan forms of the letter teth depicted the circle cross or Mark of the Beast. The symbol is identical to that used by the ancient Egyptians to show a terrestrial or astral location.

The Mark of the Beast was also used as a protective amulet by the Egyptians, and was associated with Sekhet the lion goddess and Tauret the keeper of the Net, the starry cosmic matrix. The serpent and cross have always enjoyed a special relationship.

The crossing of the 13th and 19th paths of the Tree forms the shadow or inverse reflection below the Abyss of the Calvary cross. The crossing of the two paths of the Moon of the Priestess and the Sun of the Lion-serpent form the special Mark of the Beast in the centre of the Unicursal Hexagram, a type of the Rosy Cross.

The Unicursal Hexagram is alchemical, depicting the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Air, equilibrated by Spirit under the governance of Sol and Luna.

The Moon was the earliest calendrical device. As the signature of time, periodicity, the Moon was the crown of Thoth or Tahuti (pronounce, djehuti). Thoth gave knowledge and magick to Isis after she followed the advice of her dark sister Nephthys. She was then able to stop the flow of time by appealing to Ra the Sun God. At the cessation of time at the crossroads, where the essences of the Woman and Beast intermingle (the 13th and 19th paths), Thoth was able to descend from heaven to earth in order to whisper magical words and spells into the ear of Isis.

Lion-serpent of Sun and Moon

The tale of Isis and Ra was replicated, in corrupt form, in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which describes how the sons of the Elohim descended to earth to copulate with the daughters of Eve. The sons of the Elohim then stayed with the women and taught them the knowledge of magick, alchemy and sciences. The congress produced a race of giants, ‘lofty ones’ or ‘noble men’ called the Nephalim.

The 19th path, along with the 20th of the Hermit and the 21st of the Wheel of Force, is worked by the Adeptus Major. The Adeptus, having attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, the ‘five equals six’ degree, must now reverse this formula and make the six of the Macrocosm equal to the five of the Microcosm. This requires works of alchemy and evocation, summed up by the magical formulae of VITRIOL and ARARITA. ARARITA is a notariqon for,
One is thy Beginning. One is thy Spirit. One is thy Transmutation.
VITRIOL is Latin:
Visitae Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum.
The Adeptus is exhorted: ‘Go ye forth into the interior places of the earth. Seek out the hidden stone of the wise. By rectification, ye shall arise.’ The philosophic stone is thus found in the interior places of the earth, or Malkuth, hidden among the roots of the Tree of Life. Rectification means extracting the subtle from the gross, the gold from base metal and the elixir of life from among the poisons of the mind, which are as the excretions of the body.

The Quintessence of all, summed up by ARARITA, is also known as the magical AZOTH, which is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end expressed in three languages. The end of time is with the beginning, and vice versa.  AZOTH consists of Alpha and Omega, Aleph and Tav, A and Z.

Lion-serpent: AZOTH

The Lion-serpent Opens the Ways

The Sun cradled by the Moon is a form of the Holy Graal, the cup of our Lady BABALON. On the 19th path, Nuit and Hadit, cosmic principles of space and consciousness, attain their material expression as Babalon riding the Lion, the Woman and the Beast. Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden is a kindred image. The Egyptian ceremony of Opening the Mouth (of the deceased) enabled the king or Initiate to pass through the duat or underworld and traverse the fragrant paths of light that lead to the starry bowers of the garden of Nuit.

Some have described the image of the 11th Tarot key as a woman closing the mouth of a lion, and from there comes the association with the magical power of The Taming of Wild Beasts. The ability to converse with and understand the secret languages of wild creatures is listed among the powers of the ‘fallen angels’ or Spirits of The Goetia. The Goetic Spirits are conjured by ceremonial evocation—one of the most glamorous sword and sorcery operations of magick. The Goetia is at the same time considered to be highly dangerous by many occultists.  However, it is not necessary for those with developed faculties to evoke any Goetic Spirits in order to converse with birds and other wild animals. The method, which involves a sensitive understanding and practice of the magical Law of Thelema, is not one that can be taught or learned in the ordinary way. Those that imagine Nuit’s declared law to be merely a formula for using sexual magick to serve personal or political ends are naturally excluded from such conversations. Human consciousness is not at all the crown of creation, though man very much likes to think that it is; neither is man the only sentient creature on earth, let alone among all the other worlds that are and shall be. The sevenfold ARARITA and VITRIOL express a secret written and concealed in the sevenfold Law of Thelema:
Love is the law, love under will.


Qabalistic knowledge adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, Volume One, entry for the 19th number [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2019

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Chariot to the Stars

Cancer is the 18th path on the Hermetic Tree of Life and is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the energy of Mars. The esoteric title of the path is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light.

Chariot to the Stars: The Chariot VII
The Thoth Tarot trump is The Chariot VII, depicting Binah as the Holy Graal and Geburah as the furnace of the Sun, which is the blood or energy poured into the Cup by the magician.

The sixteen subquadrants of the elemental Watchtowers of the Universe are depicted as composite sphinxes drawing the Chariot forward. The letter of the Tarot Atu is cheth, ‘fence or enclosure’. Cheth spelled in full (ChITh) is equal to 418, the number of Abrahadabra, which is emblazoned upon the Chariot’s canopy. Aleister Crowley’s solar interpretation of Abrahadabra as ‘Father-Sun-Hadit’ conceals a lunar formula, which is that of the magical spirit-body called the Khu in ancient Egyptian sacred texts and in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis. In cosmic aspect the Khu is the ‘company of heaven’ referred to in the Liber AL, I: 1–4.
Had! The manifestation of Nuit. The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference. 
The 18th path of Cheth is called the Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth means ‘a wall’ or ‘enclosure’. From the interior of Binah, runes of secret knowledge flow forth via the Abyss. Secreted in these shades or stars are the keys of union with Nuit, the Queen of Space. The power or intelligence of the 18th path is experienced as consciousness that flows like water from the innermost depths, symbolised as the walled City of the Pyramids.

Secrets of the Chariot

Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an image steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a ‘Chariot’ or Merkebah, as depicted in the Tarot trump. The Chariot is the vehicle of will, called the resurrection body in mysticism. By this vehicle, the secret paths of the Hermetic Tree may be negotiated. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL, I: 8,
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.
The magical power of the 18th path is the Power of Casting Enchantments.[1]

Khephra as drawn by Jeff Dahl
Taken at the most superficial level, the Power of Casting Enchantments is suggestive of the kind of magick usually associated with witchcraft or voodoo, where village folk consult with their shaman to settle a dispute with their neighbour, get revenge on someone that has slighted them, or perhaps cook up a potion to help them seduce someone. More seriously, the ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. Khephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. Khephra is self-created, self-born, self-becoming, ever-changing and ever-living. Khephra is the Becoming—the magical transformative principle itself. Through this principle the soul is able to pass through the underworld and undergo transformation into a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird or Chariot to the Stars.

Influential occultists of the 20th century were deluded by the pseudo doctrine of the Theosophists, where the individual ego is supposed to ‘reincarnate’ for life after life. Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and others readily embraced the Theosophical notion as it provided almost limitless possibilities for story-telling. Fictional characters could travel back and forth in time; a magician could be anything they want to imagine in a ‘past life’—very often a priest or priestess from the sunken isle of Atlantis with incredible supernatural powers, or a mysterious adept endlessly reincarnating into new earthly lives to fulfil a supremely appointed destiny. If taken in any way seriously this is flattering for the individual while leading the aspirant into a spiritual cul-de-sac. The misinterpretation of ancient Greek and Hindu scriptures was later packaged and sold to naïve Westerners by New Age entrepreneurs.

Acceptance of the Theosophical doctrine has prevented Crowley and his followers from interpreting the Book of the Law on vital matters, such as, ‘What happens to the soul after death?’ ‘What must an Initiate do to prepare for this?’ Even the aim and purpose of a Great Work becomes obscure once the nebulous philosophy of the New Age movement is accepted. Crowley, who was heavily influenced by Madame Blavatsky, proclaimed that Thelema is a ‘New Law for Humanity’. It is in fact the very ancient law and eternal truth that governs initiation and soul survival. Esoteric Thelema is identical with the Setian Gnosis of ancient Egypt, and in particular, of the Setian cult of Mentu in Thebes of the 26th Dynasty.[2] Egyptologists have served to further obfuscate the truth by placing emphasis on the late dynastic Osirian mummification process. Yet even The Egyptian Book of the Dead (so-called) reveals a consistent ancient Egyptian doctrine of the afterlife. The work of one unique incarnation determines whether the soul survives the second death or suffers annihilation through the dispersive forces of the underworld. Esoteric Thelema continues the ancient Egyptian Setian Gnosis where magical initiation and the life of the soul after mortal death are notions so intimately related as to be identical.[3]


1. Adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].
2. The source of the Thelemic transmission mediated by Rose Crowley in Cairo in 1904 was the Stele of Revealing, the funeral stele of a priest of the cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Thebes, 26th Dynasty (around 500 BCE).
3. See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs for new translations and commentaries on spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The ancient Egyptian (and Thelemic) doctrine of the afterlife is there fully explained.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2019
Khephra Scarab drawn by Jeff Dahl

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Magick of the Planetary Hours

Time is a vital factor in magical operations such as the consecration of talismans. The Chaldean planetary hours are a means of reserving particular hours in the day for the preparations that are necessary for such workings. The tables will also indicate a suitable time for starting a ritual. The ordering of time according to the sevenfold Hermetic principle also encourages spontaneous magical acts and observances at all times of day and night, without the need to plan weeks or months in advance.

Hermetic Tree of Life as drawn by Oliver St. John
“In 777 we find ‘correspondences’ of many classes of being with the various types of operation, so that we know what weapons, jewels, figures, drugs, perfumes, names, etc. to employ in any particular work. But it has always been assumed that the invoked force is intelligent and competent, that it will direct itself as desired without further ado, by this method of sympathetic vibrations. The necessity of timing the force has been ignored; and so most operations, even when well performed as far as invocation goes, are as harmless as igniting loose gunpowder.”
Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XIV

The order of planets and ruling angels for the days of the week and hours of each day follow the order of planetary chakras on the Tree of Life. The order is that of the Lightning Flash, from 3–9.
3. Saturn, Binah
4. Jupiter, Chesed
5. Mars, Geburah
6. Sun, Tiphereth
7. Venus, Netzach
8. Mercury, Hod
9. Moon, Yesod
Once we arrive at the Moon, the cycle begins again at Saturn. The order of planets or mundane chakras on the Tree is worked out according to the speed of the planets, relative to the earth. Saturn is the slowest moving while the Moon is the fastest.

The example given below is that of the hours of Mercury. Taking the trouble to work out the hours arithmetically is a good place to begin a fruitful relationship with Tahuti, the god of Mercury and of Magick.

To consecrate a talisman of Mercury we need to do this on Wednesday, the day of Mercury. The angel to invoke will be Raphael, the angel of Wednesday, Mercury, and the hour of Mercury. Next, we need to find the time of the planetary hours of Mercury and Raphael, so that we begin our ritual at the most auspicious time.

Table of Planetary Hours for Mercury and Wednesday
A planetary day begins at sunrise—which is locationally sensitive—and ends at sunset, when the hours of night commence. The day hours and the night hours are simply divided into 12 sections each. Planetary hours are not, therefore, the same as ordinary clock-time hours. While a clock-time hour is always 60 minutes, a planetary hour varies in length according to the time of year, and is 60 minutes long only at the spring and autumn equinoxes. At the summer solstice, the planetary hours of day will be considerably longer than the planetary hours of night. At the winter solstice this is reversed, so the planetary hours of day will be shorter than the hours of night. Assuming we are wanting to find planetary hours for the day:
1. Find your local time of sunrise and sunset.
2. Count how many hours there are between sunrise and sunset.
3. Divide that number by 12 (convert hours into minutes to make this easy).
4. The result of the division by 12 is the length of a planetary hour by day.
5. Now that we know the length of the planetary hour, all we have to do to get the 8th hour corresponding to Mercury on a Wednesday is to multiply the planetary hour by 8, convert that to clock-time and subtract one planetary hour to find the time that the hour of Mercury begins. Using this method, we may also construct a table of hours for the day and night in question, including the time that each planetary hour begins.

Planetary Hours: Calculating the Hours of Mercury

Let us suppose we want to do an operation of Mercury on Wednesday 22nd May 2013. The Sun is in Gemini, a good position, since Mercury rules Gemini. We are not going to look at other astrological factors, though, for reasons that will be explained later. We might want to take into consideration the phase of the Moon, however. If this is a constructive working, then we need the Moon to be waxing towards full. We are in luck; the Moon is indeed waxing in Libra for most of the day. There is one other astrological factor we need to be aware of. If Mercury happens to be retrograde, then we need to wait until the little devil goes direct again—unless the ritual or talisman is an operation concerned with the past. Fortunately, Mercury is not retrograde at this time, so we can go ahead.

Following the five points listed above, we find that our local time of sunrise and sunset will be 05:30 am and 9:08 pm. The planetary day is therefore 15 hours and 38 minutes long. We convert this into 938 minutes and then divide by 12, which gives a planetary hour of 78 minutes. The 1st hour on a Wednesday is always the hour of Mercury but unless we want to be doing the ritual at 05:30 in the morning then we need to find the 8th hour of Mercury.

We multiply: 78 x 8 = 624 minutes, which is 10 hours and 24 minutes after sunrise. Adding this to the time of sunrise (05:30 am) gives a time of 3:54 pm. We remember to subtract one (planetary) hour of 78 minutes to find the time the 8th hour of Mercury begins. Our ritual needs to begin at 2:36 pm.
There is a simple rule for finding the planetary hour by night. The planetary day hour added to the planetary night hour always results in 120 minutes. So in this case we simply subtract 78 minutes from 120 to find that the length of a planetary hour by night is 42 minutes.

So long as we are consistent, and work with and understand the rules of whatever system we are using, the tendency is that our magical operation will be successful. If the goal requires a material outcome then we need to be careful what we ask for—because we might get it. As with divination, the terms must be precisely worded, so there is no room for ambiguity.
Angels of the Planets and Days
Michael is the Angel of Sunday and the Hours of the Sun
Gabriel is the Angel of Monday and the Hours of the Moon
Zamael is the Angel of Tuesday and the Hours of Mars
Raphael is the Angel of Wednesday and the Hours of Mercury
Sachiel is the Angel of Thursday and the Hours of Jupiter
Anael is the Angel of Friday and the Hours of Venus
Cassiel is the Angel of Saturday and the Hours of Saturn
The Angel of the Sun rules the first hour following sunrise on Sunday. The Angel of the Moon rules the first hour following sunrise on Monday—and so on.

Objections to Planetary Hours

It was expressed with utmost forcefulness by the author of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage that tables of planetary hours—associated in those times with fortune tellers, necromancers, psychic mediums and the like—are abhorrent to the aspirant of the High and Sacred Magic. SL MacGregor Mathers, who translated the book, adopted this view. Crowley, who held Sacred Magick in high esteem—though never completed the magical operation—also adopted the view. The ‘real’ planetary hours are when the planet is actually visible in the heavens, preferably somewhere between the Ascendant and the Midheaven in an astrological horoscope. The argument is that planetary hours are a purely arbitrary notion ad they bear no relevance to the actual positions of the planets.

The principle objection of the 15th century mage Abramelin was that people used the tables of hours superstitiously and did not know what they were doing. That applies to anything in magick. We must know what we are doing and why we are doing it. Planetary hours then become a powerful and practical method of organising time. It is a discipline that consecrates particular days and hours to a sevenfold symbol of the universe.

Value of Planetary Hours

Applying the rules of astrological dignity means that with some planets we may have to wait several years until the right conditions come about. That is where the ‘abominable’ tables of planetary hours become an attractive proposition. Our days of the week are seven, and we still name them after seven gods or ‘spirits before the throne’. We live our lives according to arbitrary parameters. There are many systems of astrology, all equally valid, yet each one brings forth different results. Dividing our time to reflect the hermetic ideal is a work of magical creativity, of imposing a will to produce order from the chaos of mind.

The tables of hours are based on the Pythagorean (Decad) model of the Tree of Life, which has always been the basis of theurgy. Moreover, the time-sensitive planetary hours are a means of anchoring occult practice in nature, for the hours of day increase from spring equinox to summer solstice and diminish from autumn equinox to winter solstice.

The virtue of the system is its simplicity. It is never possible to get all the conditions of the universe to agree; an astrological horoscope will always include favourable and unfavourable factors, and we have to weigh and balance these before we can make a judgment. There are countless other factors in the universe besides astrological ones. The Chaldean system ensures that in an uncertain and ambiguous universe there will be one or two things at least that are absolutely reliable. The system of planetary hours is an excellent example of applying hermetic principles to everyday life. We cannot take account of every factor in the universe each time we decide to act; we simply need to choose the parameters for our operation and stick by the principles involved.


From, ‘Art of Making and Charging Magical Talismans’, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.
© Oliver St. John 2013, 2019

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Ritual of the Pentagram: Heart of Mystery

When ritual is properly done, the practitioner does not merely produce a set of symbols, in the way of a conjuror pulling rabbits from a hat; the magician and the symbol are one word, one deed, one act and one thought. The power of the symbol is to be reunited with its esoteric source with the infinite.
Ritual of the Pentagram: Horus in the mudra or sign f the Enterer
“Thus the symbol is a material representation of immaterial qualities and functions. It is an objectification of things subjective in us and subliminal in nature, awakening us to a perception of the world which may make us aware of a knowledge contained in our soul.”[1]

Gareth Knight made a compelling case for thinking and doing MAGICK. Magick is not a quest for psychological perfection, nor is it the art of collecting spells and making potions with the aim of making life easier and more comfortable for ourselves. In magick, the creative idea is both subject and object—what we see is what we are. The elemental forces called to the magical circle are living creatures.
“Man’s current delusion is an over valuation of the intellect. That which has given him so much and enabled him to transform the conditions of his being by technological wonders. Yet his inherent psychic unbalance is projected forth into his environment … in which he sees his own image … Whatever man does to lesser forms of life he does to himself. As he tips the balance more and more askew with his technological contrivance, so does the day approach more quickly when his own brain children, the chemical, mechanical, electronic, sub-atomic monsters, will destroy him.  
“In the magic circle, what seems so little can mean so much!”[2]
The Thelemic Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is the most enduring of all ritual methods for the preparation of the magician and place of working. To perform the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram properly you will need to master the mudra of the Ankh or Tau-cross and the dual mudra of Horus the Enterer and Keeping Silence. Together, the three primary mudras are called the Cube of Space.

The Rituals of the Pentagram are rarely used to actually ‘banish’ anything per se. It is better to regard the two ways of drawing the pentagrams as firstly for invoking and opening, and secondly for closing or withdrawing. The primary use of the so-called banishing pentagrams is to return the psychic senses to the ordinary mode of consciousness. Both modes act as a defence for the magician, strengthening the astrosome and creating a balanced symbol through geometric extension.
Firstly, we need to understand how the Cube of Space is formulated in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. We need to practice and understand the magical mudras or Godforms. We have restored these to their natural and ancient form, so you will find they differ in some respects from what is given elsewhere. For example, in Crowley’s Liber O, or in various publications presenting the historic rites and ceremonies of the Golden Dawn.

The Ankh or Tau-cross Mudra

Beginning the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram: Stand up, with your head facing forward, and place the heel of your left foot against the middle of the instep of your right foot, forming a right-angle. Extend both arms at right angles to your body, so that you form a ‘T’ shape. The palms of your hands should be turned upwards.

This mudra typifies and embodies the unity of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, the eternal and the temporal. It is the mark or sign of ‘Life’, encompassing all worlds and creatures. The circle of the heavens or space is the full range of consciousness. The cross defines a nexus between the eternal and the temporal worlds of space, time and matter. Use this mudra for stability, strength and endurance. Use it to acknowledge that the whole universe is a living, moving field of conscious intelligence, a continuum in which no creature or thing can be truly separate.

Horus the Enterer and Keeping Silence

The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram requires the technique known as the Assumption of the Godform. The mudra of Horus consists of Horus the Enterer and Harpocrates or Keeping Silence. In all cases, with the one exception of the mudra of Typhon, the second mudra always follows the first. Horus the Enterer is sometimes called the Projecting Sign  (see image of Horus above).
Begin by standing with the heel of your left foot against the middle of the instep of your right foot, forming a right-angle. Your arms should be straight down by your sides. Inhale a full breath through both nostrils, at the same time bringing both hands up to the level of your ears, palms flat downward. While exhaling strongly, move your left foot a step forward, about twelve inches. At the same time extend both arms before you and turn the palms upward. The hands are brought together from the line of the little finger down to the edge of the palms, forming a ‘v’ shape, like an opened book. The fingers and thumbs are straight and pointing forward. The line of eyesight travels straight ahead, through the ‘v’ made with both hands.

The three-fold projection of vital force, prana or radiation, streams from the fingers of both hands and the third eye. Imagine that you send out much force, in rays of light. Then recover the step, stand upright with your feet in the starting position, and press one finger to your lips in the mudra of Keeping Silence. Imagine the force condenses around you. The left foot is always used in the step forward, and the leg is kept quite straight though not tensed. The back is kept straight, the body is not “thrown forwards” and the arms are not “flung” as in the description given by Crowley in Liber O—it must be a balanced, graceful movement. The mudra we give here is identical to the way that the ancient Egyptians portrayed the god Horus.

With this dual mudra the magician identifies with the Logos, issuing forth the primal utterance, streaming light from the mouth of the void of night at the beginning and end of time. The mudra of Keeping Silence may be assumed astrally or imaginatively as a form of psychic defence. The god is usually seen as standing on—or exuding from—a lotus flower. In the case of psychic defence and protection the god is seen as standing on two crocodiles. The mudra of placing the finger to the mouth is to enclose and seal the circuits of force in the occult anatomy.

The Evocation of Shakti-Babalon

The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram requires the astral projection of Godforms. At the culmination of the ritual, four Neteru stand facing inwards when invoking and outwards (as Guardians) when banishing or closing: Ishtar, elemental deity of Air in the North; Babalon, elemental deity of Fire in the South; Ashtaroth, elemental deity of Earth in the East; Isa (or Isis), elemental deity of Water in the West. They may be imagined as winged, after the manner of Egyptian sarcophagus guardians, reflecting the qualities of their element. The Neteru that are seen standing in the quarters are best visualised as reflecting their respective element and station according to the magical correspondences. Thus elemental Air glows golden in the North; Fire flashes scarlet in the South; Earth shines emerald, or starlight on a night sky, in the East; Water flows sapphire blue in the West. When invoking one should feel that the force and qualities of each element rush and pour into the circle and vivify the whole sphere of sensationn. The elemental spirits, the sylphs, salamanders, gnomes and undines, are made much of in fantasy and fairy tale but the magician must know these are real living forces of nature that are perfectly visible to the trained clairvoyant.

The Neteru may be regarded as four faces of Shakti-Babalon, the feminine principle of divinity and power that manifests in nature. Each reflects and mediates her respective element and direction. The Neteru are most easily visualised in the Egyptian style, naked to the waist, with long diaphanous skirts, bracelets, anklets and other jewelled ornaments such as a beaded collar or necklace. They may be seen as having long wings that angle outwards and behind them rather like a bird’s plumage.
If it is wished to create more detail then the astrological or Kerubic emblems may be incorporated. In this case, Ishtar would stand upon her own feet in the North, with wings. Babalon would be seated upon a lion in the South, Ashtaroth would be seated on a Bull in the East, and Isa would be seated upon an Eagle in the West—rising in clouds of mist above the surging waves of the sea.

Ritual Sonics

By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened.[3]
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram requires the skilled use of ritual sonics. The breath is used to utter the words and spells. In so doing, the magician becomes at one with the creation of the universe from the beginning of time—as symbolised and activated through the three primary mudras of the Ankh and the dual Horus. All things are expressions of the primal utterance, the Word. In Egyptian magick, the name of any thing is the key to its life, power and existence. Magick works when two things are brought together, the vibration of the names and the creation of images or thought-forms. These two are one, for both sound and light are waveforms. In the beginning is the word, the primal vibration. That word is the Logos, the spiritual phallus (‘image’) of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Matrix of the Goddess is the thread of emanations or fragrant kalas that provide the means for the embodiment of the magical spell of the Ibis Thoth, the sacred word-bird.

The vibratory technique applies to any ritual where words of power, divine names or ‘barbarous words of evocation’ are used. One must vibrate the words of power in order to make any ritual effective. To do this:

Take in a full breath through both nostrils. As the air is fully expelled the name or word is loudly and forcefully vibrated so as to physically resonate. It is not shouted, and should be sonorous. The vowels are greatly extended. For example, ‘IAO’ is sounded until the breath is exhausted, ‘ee-aah-ooh!’
If it is not possible to vibrate the words loudly and physically then a technique called the Great Voice is used. Imagine that the name or word roars forth to infinity while feeling it strongly resonating within.

The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram

0. Stand in the centre facing the North. Assume the Ankh or Tau-cross mudra.
1. Mark the Cube of Space: Raise your hands to your brow in a wide sweep, pressing them together as in a gesture of prayer. Lift your head slightly and raise your eyes upward to heaven. Send the power of your aspiration upwards. Vibrate as you do so: IAO!
2. Now lower both hands to your heart, while lowering your head and eyes to face forward again. Clench both hands together. Vibrate: SABAO! Send a current of force downwards to the centre of the earth.
3. With your hands still clenched at your breast, imaginatively raise the serpent or khuti to your brow, in silence.
4. Make the mudra called Horus the Enterer, sending a full exhalation of breath through both nostrils.
5. Recover the step, in the mudra of Keeping Silence.
6. Take up your wand and inscribe the pentagram in bright fire towards the North. Draw the point to the centre of the star. Vibrate: HO-LO-KO!

[For banishing or closing, begin the pentagram from the same point but proceed in an anti-clockwise direction.]
7. Spin about widdershins till you face the East, and create the pentagram as before. Vibrate: BI-KA-EL!
[One may also circumambulate the place, in which case go direct to the North to make the first pentagram. From thereon, pace the circle widdershins to each station.]
8. Spin about widdershins till you face the South and make the pentagram. Vibrate: IA MAL-PERAY-JI!
9. Spin about widdershins till you face the West and make the pentagram. Vibrate: BELIOR!
10. Spin about widdershins to face the North again.
11. Stand in the mudra of the Ankh or Tau-cross and say: Before me, ISHTAR, behind me, BABALON, on my right hand, ASHTAROTH, on my left hand, ISA! For about me flame the pentagrams, and in the column the six-rayed star.
12. Repeat the Cube of Space, steps 0–5. The four stars are seen flaming in the quarters when assuming the Tau cross. The hexagram appears above you and below you, as though it were engraved upon the ceiling and the floor, the heavens and the earth. In making the mudra of Horus the Enterer to the North, send forth the whole current generated by the ritual.
Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram: Six-rayed Star (Hexagram)


1. Robert Lawlor, Translator’s Introduction to Symbol and the Symbolic, RA Schwaller de Lubicz.
2. Gareth Knight, The Rose Cross and the Goddess.
3. Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

What we give here is detailed enough for any student to get started with the ritual. There is a more complete explanation of every point in this ritual, and precise instructions for how to perform it properly along with photographic illustrations of the mudras, in the book, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.

© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2016
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