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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.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Magick of Light

The “Z” formula, or Magick of Light, is the basis for the consecration of talismans, invocation and evocation. It is also the basis of magical Initiation and was devised by the historical Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The General Exordium declares the method by which the Hermetic Light is transmitted—for the 93 Current is comparable to electricity or an electromagnetic force; at other times it is described as a fluid, Azoth. Here is the universal formula of magical theurgy. 

Magick of Light: The Flaming Sword in the midst of Ain Soph

1. The Speech in the Silence: the Words against the Son of Night.

Ceremonies begin with some form of banishing to clear the universe or ritual place of work from all inimical forces. Traditionally the ritualist give a warning, Procul o procul, este profani!—“Away, away, all ye profane!”

2. The Voice of Thoth before the Universe in the presence of the eternal Gods.

Hermes is present in the ritual as soon as the priest utters a word: “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened”.

3. The Formulas of Knowledge.

There follows a sevenfold exposition on the Knowledge of Thoth, which is the technical means of invocation and evocation.

i) The Wisdom of Breath.

The root of the Word-vibration is Chokmah (Wisdom), the seat of the Will; the subtle light or virile force is circulated by the yoga of breath, called pranayama in the East. With ritual magick, the practice of breath is translated into the circular pacing of the place by the magician, called circumambulation. The ritual circle is an extension of the astrosome of the magician; in this field the magician moves. The magician becomes the type of consciousness itself, the ubiquitous point in the circle of space. In like fashion, Hadit is the giver and the animator of life. The atomic analogy is that of the electron.

ii) The Radix of Vibration.

The root or base of vibration is the sonic utterance. By the vibratory method words of power are sent forth thus: the thread of light is drawn down from the Ain Soph Aur beyond Kether, into the Tiphereth (inhalation), and then sent forcibly outwards (exhalation) as an image. The magician thus replicates the primal act of creation. By the Hermetic axiom, “As above, so below”, the magician is God and verily God—created in the image of that God and imbued with the divine power of creation. The personal ego imagines that it is separate, that its actions are its own—yet the ego does not exist save as an expression of the true Self or Holy Guardian Angel. A large part of initiation is to realise the fact.

iii) The Shaking of the Invisible.

By the vibratory formula, that which is invisible and latent is made visible and dynamic; that which is inert is brought to life and activity.

iv) The Rolling Asunder of the Darkness.

This refers to the Opening of the Veil, the rending of the fabric of space that makes creation possible through duality. Each step along the initiatory path is a dispelling of the darkness of the previous state.

v) The Becoming Visible of Matter.

The eye of the beholder is one with that which is seen. The power of imagining is the power behind all visible things.

vi) The Piercing of the Coils of the Stooping Dragon.

This refers to the magnetic force that surrounds the earth, which is a constraining force. The ignorance of unknowing binds the uninitiated with this magnetic force; the unawakened spirit perceives the visible appearance of things, yet is unknowing of the secret operator behind all phenomena.

vii) The Breaking forth of the Light.

The Word-vibration has issued forth from the mouth of the Creator, dividing the light and the darkness and bringing order and form to the universe.

There is a further meaning to the piercing of the coils of the Stooping Dragon and the breaking forth of Light. The work of the magician is to create astral shells, Godforms that are located in various places in the magical Temple, the universe. This is accomplished by the formula previously declared, “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened”. These astral images are linked to Tiphereth within the astrosome of the magician. Lest we think this is all merely a psychological exercise, the creation of a magical theatre in the mind, we are reminded that the life force animating all of creation is one and the same, and springs from the same source. That source does not rest with the human ego, which is in itself merely a puppet doll, a transitory shadow formed by a reflection of light. The source is the wellspring of the eternal, from which the circle of the Gods came forth before the Beginning of Time—all of which is enacted by the magician at the beginning of the ritual. The living Gods or Neters are able to inhabit the shells that we have made for them and are able to speak through those images created in the mind’s eye.

The Z Formula

The shape of the English letter “Z” forms the symbol of the Lightning Flash, the descending current that concentrates out of the Ain Soph into Kether and then pours forth to fill the cups or vessels of the Hermetic Tree. The letter zain, “a sword”, is the power of division that is the means of creation. Zain is the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the seventh path counted from aleph. The number 7 is that of Venus and Netzach, which encompasses the whole Tree of Life and is sometimes called the “Brazen Serpent”, the serpent of brass or copper that identifies Venus with the twenty-two scales of the serpent of wisdom—the shining paths.

The sword and the serpent are the descending and ascending current or flow of force that is set in motion through the practice of breath control and silent concentration of mind. The sword and the serpent are two and one, or none. When the serpent has climbed to the top of the Tree, the sword of flame issues from its mouth and runs to earth as a charge of lightning. The number 7 is also a number of Set; as the manifestor of the seven stars of the Thigh constellation that we call Ursa Major, Set is both 7 (Sept or Sepet) and 8, since he is the first and the eighth, the ogdoad.

Musicians will intuit the relevance of the seven-note musical scale that ends and begins with the octave, the eighth. Sound and light follow the same geometric principles. The Hermetic Tree itself is based on the Pythagorean decad, the Tetractys, from which the three principles and four elements are drawn. From there, the entire basis of astrology, alchemy and magick comes forth, as laid down by Cornelius Agrippa and before him, the ancient Egyptian priest-kings.

The Z formula is applied equally to the consecration of talismans, to the invocation and evocation of occult forces and to the Initiation of the individual. The ritual for the consecration of a talisman—by which life and movement is brought to inert matter—is identical to the ritual of initiation for any grade, sephira, number or path. The aspirant necessarily begins as blindfolded and bound with cords of ignorance, as surely as Malkuth is bound by the coils of the Great Dragon, Leviathan, and separated from the rest of the Tree of Life. As in the words of the ceremony of Initiation of the Neophyte:
Inheritor of a dying world, arise and enter the darkness!
The Mother of Darkness hath blinded him with her hair.
The Father of Darkness hath hidden him under His wings.
His limbs are still weary from the wars that were in heaven.
Unpurified and unconsecrated, thou cannot enter the hall of the Initiates!

In this state of darkness and unknowing, the person must be purified by lustral water and consecrated by the living fire before any Great Work can begin. Upon admission, the Candidate is made to swear the Oath. The Oath does not limit the person’s freedom; on the contrary, by binding the chaos and the night within, there is a chance of the only real freedom, the freedom of knowing and doing the True Will on earth.

Having declared the Oath under the sword of Horus in the guise of an executioner, the sword is lifted and the Neophyte, still bound and hoodwinked, begins the movement around the Temple, stopping at various stations along the way. The fear and darkness of the Neophyte on the threshold is embodied by Horus, Guardian of the West, whose throne is the station of the path of the Shades. Isis, or Thoum-Aest, speaks kind words on behalf of the soul of the Neophyte. Her throne is in the East, station of the Light arising in Darkness.

Unseen by the Neophyte, hoodwinked and bound, a ghostly reflection of the Tree of Life begins to shine about them—a light shining in darkness. Unseen by the Neophyte, the lamp of Anubis goes ever before. As the ceremony develops, the intensity of the light increases.

When each part of the chamber has been visited in turn, and a glimpse of knowledge obtained from the Gods that inhabit the stations, the Neophyte is taken to the cubical altar at the centre of the universe and the blindfold removed. Three Gods raise wand, sword, and sceptre, to form a triangle of light above the head of the new Initiate. The light has risen in darkness. The Neophyte is called to Life and Light.

At last, the Neophyte is taken between the two pillars of Solomon; the bindings are removed, and they are informed of their new life in the Temple of the Gods. The removal of the binding cord from the waist means the person is now free to act, to move in the way of their True Will. 


This article is taken from the book, Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018

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