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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.

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. The full title of the path is The Daughter of the Reconcilers: the Bringer-forth of Life

Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot Atu Art XIV


According to The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:
The 25th path of Samekh connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key, Art XIV. 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 Tarot trump for the path depicts the Holy Guardian Angel performing a work of alchemy on the soul. 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.

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 that has long been used in the Western Mystery Tradition. The Holy Guardian Angel is the name given to 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. All attempts to rationalise the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel are reductionist and misleading. Aleister Crowley coined the term deliberately, to send the rationalist scuttling for cover and to defeat the complex metaphysical arguments that might otherwise arise. Scriptures and magical grimoires use allegory to convey truth that cannot be put into words. The 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 to incarnate) in human form. The method of knowing God through devotion to a deity was put forward by Aleister Crowley in his Liber Ararita (The Equinox III: 1). Crowley was emphatic, however, that careful distinction be made between communion with a deity and the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is considered to take place on a different plane.

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—one who has attained the grade or degree that corresponds to Tiphereth, the solar centre of the Hermetic Tree of Life. 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. The ancient Egyptians called this kind of knowledge the Intelligence of the Heart. Such knowledge is not located in the mind, the intellect. It cannot be arrived at through a process of reason or argument unless the sword of reason is turned against itself—a path that seemed to have dire consequences for the philosopher Nietzsche.

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 the discipline and vigilance are continued, there is still a risk of falling from the path. What does this mean, “falling from the path”? There is what Crowley called the “Black Brother”, 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 the ‘magical powers’ are utilised towards reinforcing the delusion—whether knowingly or not. 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 Magician.(1) All the force of the will is concentrated on the ego, and is utilised for the reinforcement of the delusion of personal identity.

It is said that all paths end in Mystery. For the mystic or magician that stays the path, whatever their natural inclination may be, surviving the ordeals of Initiation defines that path in a way that only they can truly understand. When the knowledge is firmly embedded in the heart through prolonged meditation and continued 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) Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden, Part Two, Chapter 2 (Starfire Publishing).

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2017

Books by Oliver St. John

Monday, 4 November 2013

Tzaddi is not the Star

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.
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth

Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump The Star XVII

The magical mysteries of blood and lineage, or succession, are best explained through an examination of the 15th and 24th paths on the Hermetic Tree of Life, traditionally corresponded to Aquarius and Scorpio. The essence of creative force arises in pure darkness, according to the Yetziratic text for the fifteenth path of The Star XVII. This path, the Constituting Intelligence, connects Chokmah (Wisdom) with Tiphereth (Beauty) on the Tree of Life. The “pure darkness” is the thread of Ain Soph, the formless, limitless space that is the numinous source of all. The power of manifesting or begetting by division is the primal power of the Goddess. The fifteenth path therefore corresponds to Nuit, the Goddess of the stars. 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 “essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness”. The darkness itself is a metaphor, since it 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 of Non-Being. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures, yet the oracle of Nuit asserts that her creative essence has “no blood therein”. Her function is not to perpetuate life forms on the physical plane. For this reason it is necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths of the Hermetic Tree. The “window” letter of the fifteenth path is then associated with Aquarius and our Lady of the Stars, Nuit-Babalon. As it is cryptically revealed by Nuit in Liber AL vel Legis I: 57:
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.
Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb as depicted 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 that is particularly concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature. Her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny, but the generation 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 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 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 the 24th path comes through the power of projecting mental images. The self-replicating formula is related to the creation of a magical ‘child’(1):
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.
Therein is hidden the key to the immortal stone, the elixir of life. Not a remedy for the inevitable afflictions of the mortal life, but the opening of the way that leads to ultimate transcendence of the earth-bound limitations of time and death. When we relate this “network of interactions between individuals” to the work of a magical Order it becomes apparent why faith in Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over organised occult communities for centuries. To seek external validation or legitimisation is magical failure. It is the inner plane contacts that are relevant and vital to the Great Work.
Behold! the rituals of the old time are black.
Liber AL vel Legis II: 5


(1) See The Law of Thelema—QuantumYoga

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2017