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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/

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Compassion is the Vice of Kings

Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched and the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world.
Liber AL vel Legis, II: 21

The above passage from the (Egyptian) Book of the Law has probably offended and outraged more persons than anything else in the books and writings of Thelema. Even the scribe, Aleister Crowley, hated it at the time.

Unfortunately for the legacy of Thelema, Crowley frequently applied a fundamentalist interpretation to this received work. His Liber OZ, for example, was an attempt to create a kind of ‘Bill of Rights’—completely against the spirit of the book, which rails against all codified commandments.

The word ‘compassion’ appears twice in the book, where it is treated as a spiritual obstacle, not a measure of worthiness. Likewise, the word ‘pity’ occurs several times in the second and third chapters. The first mention of ‘pity’ comes in II: 46–48, where it seems Crowley is being interrogated and rebuked. We should remember the book was dictated to Crowley, and he did not like the way the book was going.
Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not. Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not: I hate the consoled and the consoler.
“Pity not the fallen! I never knew them”, suggests that Crowley has been arguing against the flow of instruction, or otherwise quietly resisting it. At this stage, Aiwass, the communicating intelligence, appears to be trying to force Crowley the scribe to accept the wisdom he was receiving direct from source, via the mediumship of Rose Edith Kelly (Ouarda the Seer, Rose Crowley).

There is a possibility that it is Crowley himself who is being warned of dire consequences if he does not accept this knowledge; that he will ‘fall’ unless he purges himself. The point is made with even greater ferocity on the third day of the transmission, as recorded in Liber AL, III: 18:
Mercy let be off: damn them who pity!
The word ‘pity’ is mentioned once again in AL, III: 42, in a paragraph concerning the ordeals of initiation.
Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; and destroy them utterly.
The Book of the Law has a historical, ancient Egyptian context. At the cult centre of Thebes, Ra Hoor Khuit was associated with Hadit (or Behedety) who was in turn associated with the historical battle chronicled by Ptolemy where the pharaonic Horus of Edfu defeated his enemies, ruthlessly routed them and followed them all over Egypt, finally killing every last one of the few survivors in Nubia. This can be understood as a spiritual battle where the ‘enemies of Ra’ symbolise the forces of ignorance and dispersion that will ultimately amount to death as finality. “Attack without pity” may therefore be taken as an instruction to be merciless with the enemy within. Ra Hoor Khuit offers his protection here, for the sun disk was not only a slayer of enemies but also a symbol to indicate the whole sky above, the heavens. It means protection, with infinite reach. How can one hide from the sky? But if there is pity for the aggregates that fuel the ego, including self-pity—thus allowing demonic forces to enslave the soul—then even the sky cannot protect those consigned to the hell worlds where no sky can be seen.

In III: 43, the warning is carried to the Scarlet Woman, the soul, where Ra Hoor Khuit, the Lord of the Last Judgement, says he will slay her child.
Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.
The soul is warned against loss of her immortal principle. If she seeks sustenance on its own plane, hoping to appease her appetites through her environment, the affections of those around, she is at grave risk of entrapment by the Qliphoth of the Holy Graal. The path in question is the 18th, that of the Charioteer. The inverse reflection of the 18th path is the baneful, short-lived ecstasy of the vampire.

Vampirism is commonly thought not to exist outside the realms of fiction. Yet occultists have always known about the degradation the human soul can suffer through wilfully or inadvertently seeking sustenance from horizontal polarity on the psychic planes. Although it has become popular for magical fantasists to glamorise the notion of the vampire, the reality is not glorious. Eventually the soul will seek sustenance from anything on the lower astral plane that has a shred of etheric vitality left in it, without discrimination. The fate of such a ghoul is truly horrible. The soul’s chance of immortality is lost forever.

Verse III: 43 of Liber AL explains in precise terms the fate of such a vampire. The soul or Scarlet Woman is warned of the consequences for mistaking desire sought on the horizontal place, mere egotistic gratification, with ‘spiritual’ or otherwise noble feelings. ‘Compassion’ implies horizontal polarity, for it is not possible, in reality, to feel or to truly know the feelings of another. Such faux feelings mask self-indulgent emotions that encourage the insatiable appetites of the ego. Such feelings are given majestic qualities by the cunning reasoning faculty. It is noble to honour the King, the spiritual core or star that is hidden in every man and every woman. ‘Pity’ is merely an inversion of self-pride. The ‘vengeance that shall be known’ is an automatic function within nature. The magical child of the soul, the immortal stone of the wise, will perish through neglect. The soul becomes alienated. She is ‘cast out’ through her clinging to the delusion of separate existence. The “harlot” alluded to here is the degenerate soul that will seek nourishment from any source whatsoever, including the etheric substance that emanates from dead and putrefying flesh. In the twilight, at the borderland of consciousness, the lost soul eventually succumbs to the natural inertia of the universe and is annihilated.

‘Compassion’, as with ‘pity’, implies superior understanding and virtue. One feels good about oneself and better than the others who are not compassionate. Thus, it is the “vice of kings”, which is that of Tiphereth: egotism, and even worse, spiritual pride.


© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.
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Friday, 31 October 2014

Enochian Magick and Hermetic Initiation

It is sometimes said, and with great conviction, that the system of Thirty Aethyrs cannot be equated to the magical grades. The view is a surprising one as this has been done and has proved to work very effectively.

Enochian Magick: Sigillum Dei Aemeth (Ordo Astri)
The spiritual and magical work of the grades beyond Tiphereth is mapped and explored through the Enochian system of Thirty Aethyrs. Nonetheless, we may still sometimes hear, ‘Only Jesus Christ has really attained the grade of Tiphereth’, or, ‘No human being can cross the Abyss’. In a certain sense, such statements are true. For all practical purposes, though, we can best regard such ‘handed-on’ advice as warning us not to claim grades of Initiation we are not entitled to. In any case, grades of Initiation are relative to each person and have no meaning whatsoever outside of an internal magical Order framework.

The post-Tiphereth grades in the hermetic schema cannot be experienced in any full sense through ordinary knowledge, astral exploration or pathworking. The Enochian system nonetheless supplies a satisfactory practical basis for the magical, spiritual and life experiences that correspond to grand-sounding degree titles such as Adeptus Major and Adeptus Exemptus.

The Thirty Aethyrs must be worked systematically. It is foolhardy to try and ‘jump’ to the higher Aethyrs before the lower ones have been thoroughly explored. Firstly, we shall examine how the magical planes work in relation to the Thirty Aethyrs. Then we will see how the whole course of initiation, everything that is possible for the magician to know and understand, can be linked to the Enochian system.

The Terrestrial Plane and the Watchtowers

The material plane is so-called objective reality, as perceived by the ordinary senses of man. The material plane is governed by matter and time. For non-initiates, this world is absolutely true and there is nothing beyond it. In the Enochian system, the terrestrial universe is bounded and gated by Four Watchtowers. Beyond these, in ever widening circles, are Thirty Aethyrs. These may conveniently be thought of as levels of consciousness.

The Etheric Plane: 30th Aethyr (TEX)

The lowest or most material of the Aethyrs is the realm immediately behind that of physical matter. It extrudes into matter in a certain sense, while the upper reaches of the Etheric Plane touch the lower regions of the Astral Plane. The Etheric Plane is the traditional abode of ghosts, ghouls, phantoms and vampires, and is the main reservoir for what is often called the supernatural. It is the main field of operation for psychics, professional mediums and the like, who frequently imagine they are working with ‘higher’ spiritual intelligences. In theory, a Neophyte should be able to enter and experience TEX, the 30th Aethyr, but not those beyond it.

The Astral Plane: 29th (RII) to the 24th (NIA) Aethyr

The lower regions of the Astral Plane are identical to the realms of heaven and hell that are the mainstay of the world’s religions. These Aethyrs are relatively dark. They are permeated with a heavy sense of judgement and sin, yet they include zones of intense desire and longing. Once NIA, the 24th Aethyr is reached, the magician has grown accustomed to travelling in a body of light. Contact has been gained with spiritual forces or intelligences that will assist further progress. The Threshold between the Astral Plane and Hermetic Plane is between NIA and TOR, the 23rd Aethyr. This is more or less identical to the Veil of Paroketh and the magical grade of Dominus Liminis.

The Hermetic Plane: 23rd (TOR) to the 14th (UTA) Aethyr

The Hermetic Plane is a realm of pure consciousness unknown to the astral body of light. In the 22nd Aethyr of LIN, the Holy Guardian Angel prepares the Adeptus Minor for the realisation of the formlessness behind all forms. By the time the 20th Aethyr of KHR has been explored, the Adeptus Major has become accustomed to the Hermetic Plane and has obtained a certain mastery of thought processes. POP, the 19th Aethyr, brings the first intimation of the threshold of the Abyss. In ZEN, the 18th Aethyr, the Adeptus Major is prepared for the initiation to the next grade of Adeptus Exemptus. The highest level of the Hermetic Plane is encountered in the 14th Aethyr of UTA, which is the last Aethyr to be explored before the Oath of the Abyss is taken.

The Spiritual Plane: 13th (ZIM) to the 1st Aethyr (LIL)

The higher grades involve the whole of life’s experience. The Magister Templi is gradually prepared for the crossing of the Abyss. It is imprudent to attempt to enter the higher Aethyrs without the corresponding degree or level of initiation and experience.


This article is adapted from, ‘The Thirty Aethyrs and the Grades of Initiation’, Ritual Magick Volume VIII.
© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

First Steps in Ritual Magick

The ‘sign of the Enterer’ is the method of projecting force used in ritual magick. The mudra is based on the Egyptian god Horus. The method taught by Aleister Crowley is the most well known. It is effective as a means of throwing out force, but it is an unbalanced movement. To practice the mudra of Horus the Enterer as a balanced movement that will not place an unnecessary strain on the universe, it is better to use the alternative method given here, based on the authentic ancient Egyptian mudra of Horus.

First Steps in Ritual Magick: Horus the Enterer of the Threshold
The dual mudra of Horus is (firstly) that of Horus the Enterer and (secondly) that of Harpocrates or ‘Keeping Silence’. In all cases, with the one exception of the three-fold mudra of Typhon, the second mudra always follows the first.[1] Horus the Enterer is sometimes called the Projecting Sign.

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.[2]

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 should be a balanced, graceful movement.

With this dual mudra the magician sends forth a word of light from 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.

Ritual Sonics

The breath is used to utter the words and spells. 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. The word is the Logos, the spiritual phallus (‘image’) of the Holy Guardian Angel. The triangular Goddess-Matrix encloses the thread of emanations or fragrant kalas that is the means for the embodiment of the magical spells.

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 Seated Posture or Asana

We do not sit cross-legged on the floor. Meditation is done seated, similar to the way Egyptian gods are depicted when enthroned. Our back is kept straight but not tense. Our feet are kept flat on the floor; our knees and hips should be straight but comfortably aligned. Our head should be facing forward, looking straight ahead, even if our eyes are closed. The art is to keep perfectly still while remaining calm and relaxed.


It is helpful, though not essential at the outset, to keep the tip of the tongue pressed lightly against the roof of the mouth. There is no counting of breaths or breathing through a single nostril as in some yoga practices. The idea is to maintain deep, relaxed breathing throughout the meditation. The rhythm of the breathing should be something like the slow rising and falling of the tides of the sea.

Breath is the spirit of life. In meditation the breath is used to circulate prana, the energy of life, in the astrosome or sphere of sensation. The astrosome is created imaginatively as an orb of light that surrounds the physical body. It is flexible and can be extended infinitely. One can travel in the body of light to anywhere in the universe and back. With regular practice, the astrosome becomes strong and malleable and can be transformed into any shape that one desires, including that of a deity or of any symbol.

There are many systems of chakras, the power zones within the astrosome—some have five, some six, some have seven or more. There are three points, though, that are vital for practical work. Here, Kundalini Shakti, the living spirit of the energy of life, penetrates the auric field. The North Pole of the universe is visualised as existing vertically above our head, as a star or luminous orb. The South Pole is imaged as the electromagnetic centre of earth, vertically below. Between the poles the heart-centre (Tiphereth) flowers as a golden radiance. It is in Tiphereth that the deity is first invoked. First practice asana and pranayama, then the mudras. Rehearse the mudras physically. Then imagine the form expanding from your heart-centre until it astrally envelops your body. Hold it for as long as you can, then withdraw the form into the Tiphereth or heart shrine.


1. The three-fold mudra of Typhon is as follows: First make mudra of Horus the Enterer. Withdraw force in the mudra of Keeping Silence. Lastly, make the mudra of Set-Typhon (‘V’). The mudra of Typhon corresponds to elemental Fire and the 4=7 degree in the magical system of Esoteric Thelema.

2. The third eye, or ajna chakra, is located between both eyes and above them in the centre of the forehead. It here symbolises the concentration and projection of consciousness. The root of the chakra is best understood as located in the centre of the brain, between the hemispheres.

Adapted from the book for Probationers, The Enterer of the Threshold.

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2019

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the alternative Esoteric Thelema Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram useful: Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Devotional Magick or Bhakti

The ancient Egyptians understood the gods, as we know them, to be Neteru, divine Principles that are everywhere manifested and visible in nature. Since divinity is everywhere and at all times present, the Egyptians had no word for ‘religion’ in their language.
Devotional Magick: Egyptian Sem Priest in Adoration
A temple built in honour of a Neter is a special abode and dwelling place for the god. Only a priest or priestess was allowed to enter the shrine of the god or goddess in the Holy of Holies. The people could pray at the gate, or in the court to the king or pharaoh—for the pharaoh was a living incarnation of Horus on earth. However, it was common for every home to have a shrine to deity, usually the local one.
The priest’s first rôle was to serve the Neter. An Egyptian name for a priest is therefore Sem Neter, Servant of the God. The word sem denotes vigilance and observance, and also has the meaning of ‘image’ and of being united or joined with the deity. There were many ranks and classes of priests, involving different duties and levels of knowledge. Priests were often chosen by royal appointment, but could be chosen from any level of society.
The high priest was called Hem Neteru, ‘Prophet of the Gods’. The word hem denotes ‘voice’ or ‘sound’, for the true meaning of prophecy is ‘first to give voice’. A high priest was not young in years, and was revered as very wise. He often acted as chief advisor to the king in political and other matters, as well as being the Magister in charge of all rites and ceremonies in the various temples that he belonged to. Women also fulfilled this role, and were often chosen from noble families by royal appointment.

Below the rank of high priest but nonetheless very important were priestly rôles such as that of scribe. Scribes had a very high standing, which can be demonstrated by the fact that the pharaoh was sometimes depicted as a scribe. The work of the hieroglyphs took many years to perfect. The Keeper of the Hours had the important duty of accurately counting the hours through the day, as these were linked to ceremonial observances, civic rites and duties. Astrologers or astronomers (there was no difference) marked the times of year and cyclical motions of the stars and planets, also vital in ceremonial and civic functions as well as agriculture. The annual flooding of the Nile, for example, was linked to the rising of the star Sirius.
A lay priest served ceremonial functions only some of the time and would hold a mundane job, often serving in government or local council administration. Lay priests served a rota system between four equally staffed groups. Each group served for a month and then returned to their other occupation for the following three months.
Priests had certain requirements to meet while they were doing service. According to ancient Greek accounts, articles of clothing that were made from animals were not permitted. Priests were only allowed to wear linen or clothing made of plants. They were required to shave their heads and bodies daily and take several cold-water baths for purification every day while serving their rota.
The duties of a priest involved tending the image of the god in the shrine, invoking the presence of the god, and in other ways uniting their self to the deity through love and devotion. The priests and priestesses had to practice sexual abstinence during the time they served in the temple. This has an occult significance, for the control and direction of the vital force is essential in practical magick. The three planetary chakras of Venus, Mercury and the Moon, when placed on the Tree of Life, correspond to the lower triad or astral triangle of Netzach, Hod and Yesod. Images are created in Hod, ensouled with vitality from Netzach and are reflected and animated in the mirror of the Moon, Yesod, which has its correspondence with the field of the human subconsciousness.
The initiation of a priest required first baptism in a sacred pool, identified hieroglyphically and in other ways with the waters of Nu, the cosmic sea. The candidate was then sprinkled with lustral water for further purification, and anointed with holy oil before being led to the shrine of the Neter and instructed in the secret ways of working with the deity. The candidate then undertook a ten day fast, at the end of which the mysteries were revealed through direct experience of the deity. The consecrated priest would care for the god in the following ways.
In the morning, after the requisite purifications, the high priest broke the seal and opened the bolts of the doors of the sanctuary.
The priest would light a torch to walk with the god, recite prayers and invocations and light the incense.
The priest would wash the statue of the god and dress it with fresh clothing and jewels.
The priest would place offerings of food and drink before the statue of the god.
Priestesses would offer songs, music and hymns of praise to the god. At the end of the day, the priest would back out of the shrine, sweeping away his footprints as he went. He would then seal up the sacred area again.
For much of the long history of ancient Egypt, priestesses were equal to priests in status or importance. They were frequently associated with Hathoor and Isis, and were the leaders and creators of all music and dance in the temples. Priestesses were considered the consorts of the gods, as were the priests. It should not be thought that specialisation in arts in any way relegated the rôle of the priestess as secondary to that of priest or scribe. The subjection of music, art and, of course, the magical arts, to the greater power and importance of science and the knowledge of material facts is a product of modern societal and governmental conventions. During some dynastic times the power of the priestesses was very great indeed, to the extent they were governors of the priesthood and of society as a whole. This is almost inconceivable from the perspective of Western civilisation in developed industrial nations.


© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019
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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Magick of the Solstice: IAO!

The King is dead! Long live the King! So went the cry, if we are to believe Frazer in his seminal work, The Golden Bough.[1] Ancient cults of the Sun would sacrifice their king at the solstice and inaugurate a new one for a further year, until once again the time came for the ritual slaughter.

Magick of the Solstice IAO: Crowley Thoth Hanged Man XII Tarot Frazer was a powerful influence from the late 19th century onwards. The lurid tales of the Scottish anthropologist were given weight by the spirit of scientific enquiry, which was as fashionable then as was much morbid supposition based on ‘evidence’ for the enthrallment of socialites gathered in drawing rooms and gentlemen’s drinking clubs.

Let us suppose we were to travel back in time a few thousand years to, let’s say, southern Egypt. There we are fortunate to find an Egyptian initiate of a Gnostic cult. If we were to say, “Ah yes, the Gnostic IAO! Isis, Apophis and Osiris. You are celebrating the rites of the slain and dying god”, the chances are he would either fall about laughing or throw us out of the house. To the ancient Egyptian, IAO had a wide variety of meanings. Depending on how it is spelled and pronounced, it could refer to the Great God, the Neter of Neters, or it could simply be a crude reference to male or female genitalia. The notion that IAO is something to do with Osiris and a ‘slain and dying god’ is only as antique as the 1888 Order of the Golden Dawn. The idea that the Trigrammaton IAO is a ‘secret’ form of the Biblical Tetragrammaton was a scholarly guess. The guess has become ‘fact’ by sheer repetition.

Aleister Crowley’s identification of the Gnostic deity name IAO with Isis, Apophis and Osiris—the slain and dying god—was a continuation of the formulaic explanation proposed by the Golden Dawn. The idea, probably arising from misunderstanding of EA Wallis Budge’s Egyptological work, is that Osiris is identical to Christ. Both Christian and Gnostic theology informs us that Christ is wholly transcendent and passes out of the world to enter an immortal realm or ‘heaven’. Osiris, on the other hand, dies and goes on to reign in the underworld as Lord of the Dead. There is no doubt that Osiris is counted among the dead, not the living. He is the type of the mummy, a corpse embalmed, stuffed with talismans and swathed in linen wrappings.

Crowley developed the Osiris as Christ hypothesis further, positing that the precessional age of the last two thousand years was an ‘old’ Aeon of Osiris. He confused the matter greatly by then saying that the age previous to that was an age of ‘matriarchy’, which is simply not historically correct.[2] Apart from this complicated and rather unwieldy mapping out of human ‘progress’, based on the evolutionist adaptation of Darwin, does ancient wisdom change with the seasons that come and go? Does it bow to the rise and fall of human civilisations, or the turning of the wheel of the precession of the equinoxes? Do the laws of nature require that a man should utter a word so the stars and planets continue in their courses, before the sun will rise in the morning and go down in the evening?

The alleged vegetative cycle of Osiris is sometimes equated with the New Age and determinist myth of personal reincarnation. It is unlikely that the ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation. If they did, then why did they go to so much trouble to keep the Ka of the deceased alive in the underworld by providing continuous offerings? It is more likely that Western commentators with a vested interest in the personal reincarnation myth have simply transferred their belief. Hindu scholars generally agree that the popular Western idea of reincarnation is derived from a mistaken interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, and that it is Atman (or Hadit) that reincarnates, not the individual human ego.

IAO as an acronym for ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ is a comparatively modern invention. It is better than the limiting notion that IAO has anything to do with a slain and dying god of corn and harvests that merely represents the seasonal cycle of the year—vegetation dying off and then reappearing in the spring. That kind of reductionism originated with Socrates, who was only privy to the outermost level of the Egyptian mysteries. The insistence that all mythologies must arise from naturalistic phenomena persists to this day.

So where then, is our wonder-word IAO placed? The ancient Egyptians had even more ways of spelling words than they had of pronouncing them. The root of the word and vibration of IAO was known to the Egyptians as AA, IA or OA. Typically, the root may be spelled with two flowering reeds, as in the name of the Goddess MAAT. The full vibration of IAO looks like this:

Egyptian IAO Hieroglyphs

The flowering reed is ‘I’ or ‘That’, while the kite hieroglyph, ‘A’, is used as an emphatic article and may indicate a cry of exaltation or a song of praise. The extended arm, ‘O’, similar to the Hebrew A’ain, signifies travelling or going forth. The word can thus be read, ‘I am He that Goes Forth’, or ‘The Ever Becoming One’, which is indicative more of Hadit than of any dead or dying god.

Considered as deity, then IAO is the Neter of the Neters, the ‘Principle of Principalities’. As such, IAO has no qualities that can be ascribed, and is the source of all gods, all ideas, all natural functions and principles. As the ‘Bornless Spirit’, IAO is ideally suited to theurgy, for it is the vibration of the All-Begetter, the Ever Becoming One that is expressed in Form, yet is in its own essence Formless. The latter may also be expressed by the reversal, OAI. There follows a list of a few of the meanings of the Egyptian IAO:[3]
The Primordial; a vessel; here, to be present; cry of exaltation; to journey forth; the abode; the house or dwelling; the all-begetter; the generative principle or Neter (and so various phallic Gods); the hair (of Nuit); door or door-leaf; the lid of a sarcophagus; the Great God; the Primordial One; the Great Old One, or Great Old Ones; the Doorkeeper or Keeper of the Gates of the Duat; great, grand, lofty or noble; the chief; a Fire God; Ra the Sun when he appears as Set, the ass-headed God.
The formulaic notion of IAO as having something to do with Osiris, an ‘Old Aeon’, or a ‘slain and dying god’, is not only inadequate but also places a bar upon us knowing the spiritual and magical potency that awaits us when the word, the sacred symbol, is followed back to its source with the infinite.


Adapted from Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

1. The Golden Bough—A Study in Comparative Religion by JG Frazer was first published in 1890.
2. The Book of Thoth, Aleister Crowley.
3. From the entry for the number 71, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth Volume One [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019
Egyptian IAO hieroglyph drawing © Oliver St. John
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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Magick of Gemini the Twins

The Tarot trump for Gemini is the Lovers VI. The esoteric title of the trump is Children of the Voice: Oracle of the Mighty Gods. The ‘voice’ is the oracle of Understanding and Wisdom. On the Tree of Life, these are Binah and Chokmah, personified as Babalon and the Beast, Sophia and Logos.

Magick of Gemini the Lovers VI: Thoth Tarot trump
The 17th path of Gemini is the seventh from Aleph. The letter zain (or zayin) is the sword separating the subtle non-material matrix into twin streams of time and space that pour forth from the Abyss. The 17th path of Gemini or the Lovers expresses the resolution of reason through the union of love under will. It is the creation of the world and its magical recreation through the Great Work.

The 17th path of Gemini connects Binah, the sphere of Saturn, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The path is called the Intelligence of Sensation or the Disposing Intelligence. It is also called the Foundation of Tiphereth in the plane of the Supernals—since its root is in Binah and its termination in the centre of the Ruach intelligence. The idea of ‘sensation’ derives from agitation, stirring or seething (ha-regash). The sword of intellect is much troubled by the dualistic contradiction inherent in its own nature, yet it is this turbulent state of affairs that is necessary before any Great Work can begin. The agitation of the sword of zain is only calmed when the meaning of every phenomenon is understood. When every phenomenon is clearly perceived then, in the words of the Oracle ascribed to Zoroaster,
After all the phantoms have vanished, thou shalt see that holy and formless fire, that fire which darts and flashes through the hidden centre of the universe; hear thou the voice of fire.
The duality of the 17th path of Gemini is expressed as Sol and Luna in alchemical terms. The Tarot trump images this forth as an alchemical wedding or mystic marriage presided over by Hermes-Thoth or Mercury. The instruction concerning the three forms of light, Aub, Aur and Aud, as posited by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, requires correction. The Order’s teaching identified the phallic light of Aur with rational consciousness, the ‘light of solar day’. In fact, the sun’s power waxes and wanes through the year in the same way that the moon waxes and wanes over the course of one month. It is the interweaving of the twin serpents, the dual light of Aub that produces phenomena. The ‘fixing of the volatile’ is when the phallic (‘imaging’) pillar of the Aur light arises in the shushumna or middle pillar in the occult anatomy. The fluctuation of the twin serpents, Sol and Luna, is stilled or ‘slain’ by the will to Silence. The Aur light then returns consciousness to its source, the magical Aud or Starlight of Nuit.

The magical power of the 17th path of Gemini is the Power of being in two or more places at one time, and of Prophecy.


Adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, comment on the 17th path.
© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019

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Friday, 9 May 2014

Magical Yoga for Beginners

Yoga means ‘union’, and traditionally that means union between the person and God, or a God. In broader terms it means the union of the subject with the object. When the subject and object are united to the exclusion of all else, then an illuminated stream of knowledge or dhyana is experienced. Dhyana is the first sign that we are getting somewhere with yoga.

Hermetic Tantra-yoga is sometimes termed, ‘Yoga of the West’. The method owes to the Qabalah, which is the basis of ritual magick. The ‘Middle Pillar Exercise’ is also based on the Tree of Life. Quantum Yoga, or Hermetic Tantra-yoga is not  by any means identical to the better known Middle Pillar Exercise, but both methods have a basis in the Qabalistic chakras.
1. The asana or meditation posture is to be seated like an Egyptian God (not cross-legged on the floor or in a ‘lotus’ mudra).

Sekhet in seated posture for Quantum Yoga: Magical Hermetic Tantra-yoga
2. The Breathing or pranayama is a continuous cycle; a full breath is taken in and a full breath expelled. The cycle does not involve counting in fours, holding the breath or breathing through one nostril only. The object is to induce deep relaxation combined with a state of mental alertness. Hyperventilation is definitely to be avoided.
3. With Eastern Laya Yoga, one begins with the base chakra and works upward. In our Tantra-yoga we begin at the crown and works downward to the base. Only then do we ‘rise on the breath’. The magnetic force is brought upwards to the crown on the in-breath, and is then sent downwards to fountain around the astrosome on the out-breath. This is repeated in a cycle. To assist the creation of the chakras or sephiroth, corresponding names or words of power are sonorously sounded or vibrated. The various centres are seen to glow and pulsate with colour. We use the King Scale (Atziluth) for the paths and the Queen Scale (Briah) for the sephiroth or chakras, as according to the tables of correspondence.

Correct Motivation

The purpose of yogic union is to ‘know God’, or know Reality directly. There are now many schools of thought that claim yoga is to improve your sense of wellbeing, help you relax, or even improve your bank balance or worldly status. New Age spirituality delights in self-indulgence—energy healing, special diets, special treatments, therapies and courses in self-hypnotism. The focus is on the physical body, the emotions and the endless quest to be psychologically better, healthier, wealthier and more powerful.

Let us assume that we are really serious about this. According to Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, we need correct motivation, study and intense aspiration. There is no use in doing magick and yoga without a philosophical basis or at least knowledge of the magical correspondences. The systematic use of ritual magick greatly accelerates progress in yoga.
The beginner is often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of technical information associated with the hermetic tradition. The knowledge serves a practical purpose: while the mind is engaged with understanding complex layers of symbolism it is at least focussing on the subject and has less time for egotistical preoccupation or other distractions.
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of beginner. There is the one that studies and engages their mind intellectually with the matter of the work. Then there is the one that does not afford time for this. The lazy student will not get very far as the yoga practice must to be supported by training of the mind. The structures of thought and reason require reorganisation to withstand the pressure encountered when deeper levels of consciousness are plumbed. One must actively and energetically seek the real. It is not about getting ‘answers’ from a book or guru that will satisfy a list of questions so it can all be put away in a box.
The four powers of the Sphinx must be practiced and understood: To Know, to Dare, to Will and to keep Silence. The aspirant must overcome their natural inertia—the desire to watch television, develop their social life, listen to the random chatter of their own or other people’s thoughts or simply go to sleep. They might also need to resist the temptation to foolishly broadcast their occult experiments on the Internet. The fourth power of the Sphinx does not only apply to the meditation itself. By managing to do all this, even the veriest beginner will very likely get some early results.

First Glimmering

We are instructed to keep a diary Record on a strict daily basis and to note down any sensations experienced, whether physical or otherwise. One of the first things the persistent practitioner will experience will be a sensation of tingling in the hands, feet, head or other parts of the body. So long as we are sitting properly and the ‘tingling’ is not merely a symptom of poor blood circulation, it is a sign of progress.
With continued practice the tingling or ‘electric’ sensations will begin to feel like muscular rigidity. The rigidity is a non-physical phenomenon. The sensations reflect the stirring of the Occult Force. The mind will translate entirely new sensations received from the nervous system into something that it already knows. Although it may often seem as though physical sensations are being encountered, the phenomena owe to a plane other than the physical.
A person can go on for some time experiencing such peculiar sensations in the body and yet think all the while that nothing at all is changing in their consciousness. The sensations are, in reality, impressions received from the subtle electromagnetic body of light or astrosome. Quite often the person will note down in their Record, “nothing experienced” or “no change”. Yet it is more than likely a great deal is going on at deeper levels of the psyche.
As the Occult Force stirs and begins to awaken at the base level, there is a stirring at the subconscious levels of the mind. Aggregates of thought, along with the emotional power that has been invested in them, rise to the surface much in the way that dredging a river brings up old bicycles, prams and all kinds of unwanted junk that has been thrown in there. How does one get beyond that stage?
1. Persist in the practice. Don’t give up.
2. Increase the time and energy you put into this.
3. There must be a philosophical basis to the work. Studying the right materal supports the meditation and ritual practice.
When these conditions are satisfied, the Occult Force will eventually break down the aggregates that were causing the disturbance and release the energy held by them. If too much attention is paid to the aggregates, or they are mistakenly assumed to be something spiritual, meaningful or real, then there is a danger of obsession.
The Thelemic Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram will not, in itself, guarantee immunity from obsession. Published works often place far too much emphasis on the so-called ‘banishing’ form of the ritual. It is a mistake to assume that the magician banishes away everything outside the magical circle, including elemental spirits. If anything, it is the magician that needs to be banished.
There is a warning about the Occult Force in Liber AL, II: 26–27.
I am the secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one. There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.
Consciousness can do two things, it can contract and it can expand. Both modes are required in magick and yoga.
Concentration is the power of Saturn. This means holding and fixing attention on the desired object. When contraction comes about involuntarily and through fear, then the “rapture of the earth” manifests as uncontrolled obsession, the demonic aspect of Saturn.
Expansion and release is the power of Uranus, characterised by various mystical trances and ecstatic states. When expansion comes about through magnification of a particular thought-form or aggregate then megalomania and paranoia are the result. These are demonic aspects of the expansive power of Uranus.
Real yoga involves encountering all the darkness of the soul at every step of the way. We need to face up to the facts of nature before we can even begin to comprehend the greater mysteries of life and death. Spiritual or magical work is work, and to earn the right to do that work the aspirant must first be prepared to fight a war or two. The first battlefield is getting the meditation done. The opposing armies on that battlefield are the countless distractions and other demands on time and attention that must be overcome before even one foot is placed on the path.


This article was not intended to be a ‘how to’ on the Hermetic Tantra-yoga. We wrote it to address the many questions that arise whenever anyone makes a serious start with ritual and meditation. For a more advanced (and practical) study of the praxis, see the article, Quantum Yoga, Way of the West.

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2019

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Taurus: The Magus of the Eternal

Venus, the Egyptian Hathoor, is the ruler of Taurus, while the Moon, the Lunar Flame, is exalted therein. The Thoth Tarot Atu for the 16th path of Taurus on the Tree of Life is The Hierophant V. The esoteric title of the 5th Tarot Key is The Magus of the Eternal.

Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot The Hierophant V
The 16th path of Vav connects Sophia or Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Chesed the magnificent or glorious sphere of Jupiter, and is imaged forth by the 5th Tarot key, The Hierophant. The path is called the Triumphant or Eternal Intelligence, since it is the way of return to the Garden of Eden. The Hierophant or Way-shower veils the instruction that is received from the deepest levels of the subconscious, for to hear this ‘voice’ or Word is to commence the glorious return implicit in the path’s title from the Sepher Yetzirah.[1]

The descent of the path is aptly figured in the letter vav, where the creative seed or essential fire is carried downwards towards manifestation. Looked at another way, the vav is the head and stem of the phallus (or spinal column), which, in the cosmic sense, is the pillar of the light or consciousness of Aur that stands in the void. The letter’s name means ‘a nail’ or ‘pin’; it is the power of fixing an image in consciousness, an act of will on the level of pure mind. The power of imagining is an attribute of Venus, the planetary ruler of Taurus and the earthly form of Nuit, depicted on the previous 15th path. The Moon is exalted in Taurus and the lunar nature of this path is that it reflects the dark radiance that pours forth from the Ain Soph into the pool of cosmic memory in Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter.

Taurus: Magical Power

As the Way-shower, inner teacher or higher intuition, the Hierophant reminds us that if we follow the Word-vibration back to its source in the infinite, all phenomena cease to exist. The oath of crossing or passing through the Abyss is therefore “to interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul”. Adepts are then untroubled by the flow of events in space-time, since they instantly recollect that all phenomena are apparitions arising on the dreaming face of the deep.

The magical power of the 16th path is the Secret of Physical Strength. The secret bears no relation to athleticism, for it is the knowledge of that which animates all things that live and move and have their being (the Word, Hadit)—it is no less than the secret of life itself.


1. Qabalistic details adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2019

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Scarlet Woman: Love is the Law of Magical Polarity

‘Syzygy’ is a Gnostic term that refers to male-female pairings of the Emanations or Aeons. The ‘Aeons’ are best thought of here as abodes for types of consciousness, as opposed to periods of time measured from the terrestrial sphere. An Aeon may refer to an eternity or a world. It was also anciently used as a title for a person that had become a Master of the Gnosis.

Ishtar, Queen of the Night or Scarlet Woman
 Ishtar, as here depicted, is Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. She embraces the forms of all creatures, human and animal, cosmic and terrestrial. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 15, the aspirant is instructed that to her all power is given.
Now ye shall know that the chosen priest and apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given. They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.
Polarity magick was at the core of Dion Fortune’s work. As a self-declared Moon Priestess, Dion Fortune required solar priests to work with. The Fraternity of Inner Light developed the magick of polarity while Dion Fortune was the Director of Studies. Such practices were not continued in the Order by her successors. However, the part played by magical polarity is vital. C. R. F. Seymour, a member of the Fraternity of the Inner Light while Dion Fortune was still in charge of operations, adapted the term ‘syzygy’ as descriptive of a mode of theurgic practice. In a diary record he wrote,
I knew that as an initiate of the Serpent Wisdom I had to share this power with my syzygy. And turning to the priestly adept who gave me this initiation I saw that he, as an adept, was his own syzygy. He had polarised the higher and lower natures, and so was a complete self-polarising entity.[1]
Polarity magick works through direct personal contact. It is also effective at a distance, through magical practice and correspondence. The inner working of polarity does not necessarily involve any other human person. Historically, hermetic magical Orders did not function in the way that people now imagine. The real hermetic work was always accomplished by correspondence between the adept and the aspirants—usually a very small group of people. This magical tradition of intimate contact goes back thousands of years; the word ‘hermetic’ owes to the Graeco Egyptian schools of Alexandria.

The task of every hermeticist is to study philosophy and cosmology. From that they form a Great Symbol of the Universe (Sri Yantra), which is built in to their astrosome and then activated for theurgic work. When an adept develops this and creates their own, unique symbol of the Universe, they begin to teach others. In teaching others, that symbol becomes perfected. Polarity is vital; without it there is no Great Work. Magical polarity takes place not only from person to person but also from inner plane contacts to those living on earth.

The law of Thelema, as “written and concealed” in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, is a law of relationship, of love under will.[2] The polarity between the aspirant and the Holy Guardian Angel is vertical. In the ordinary case, human relationships are horizontal—on the same plane. When magical polarity is properly managed, either one, both, or all practitioners establish a degree of vertical polarity. They have thus forged a link with the inner planes, which it is ever the object of magick to establish. When no such links are forged, the polar magnetism is locked into the human personalities with all the usual schismatic consequences of ambition, rivalry, jealousy and abuse of power and privilege.

When inner plane contacts are established, polarity magick brings a great deal of energy, force or magnetism into a ritual or a daily practice. The power that is raised is carefully directed according to the nature of the magical operation. Passive vampirism, on the other hand, occurs when a person is ignorant of the occult principles. The innate vampire seeks vitality from others instead of acquiring it from the free elemental resources of nature and the vertical polarity of inner plane contacts. An analogy with atomic bonding in physics can be made with this ‘lending and borrowing’ principle inherent in the universe.[3] There is a grave danger when the appetite of the Ka (‘vital body’) becomes dissociated from the intellectual and moral faculties.

Nuit and Hadit express the ultimate cosmic principle of polarity manifested on the earth as female and male, moon and sun, night and day, darkness and light. On the magical plane, Nuit and Hadit are expressed as the Khu and the Khabs. This pair is the magical body and ‘star’ that manifests through the mysterious alignments or ‘space marks’. According to the wisdom of Aiwass, Liber AL, I: 8–9,
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.
Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!
Chapter One of the book is concerned with the nature of Nuit, absolute space containing infinite possibilities. The light of Nuit is shed over those who worship her star. Nuit is able to appear as magnetic emanation, the circumference of the circle. It is Hadit, the esoteric will that ‘causes’ her manifestation as a body of stars. Yet Hadit only exists through virtue of Nuit’s circle. Nuit’s ultimate revelation is her nakedness, for as the principle of containment itself (the circle of zero) how can she be contained? Thus, Nuit is never depicted as clothed. Only by the magick of Hadit—who is at once the Magician and the Exorcist—can Nuit manifest. While Nuit can thereby be known, Hadit can never be known, as declared in Liber AL, II: 3–4:
In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.
The ‘Knower’, the principle of consciousness itself, can never be known. Nuit is able to appear by virtue of her stars, her ‘children’ or followers (Egyptian shem-su). Herein is the romance and mystery of life, death, love and eternity. The polarity magick of Nuit and Hadit is a dance, a love-play (or lila) that, through its motive affect upon space, whirls the worlds into life so eternity is reflected in the continuity of existence.

Polarity magick, once seen in this way, can hardly be ignored or disposed of as a mere detail of the hermetic tradition, or as an experiment that began and ended with Dion Fortune in the 1930s and 40s. Polarity is how the magick works, whether it is seen to be about the creation of worlds or their destruction. The starry body of Nuit is her appearance, but hidden among the stars is the key of eternity’s doorway. The Book of the Law tells of the soul’s redemption, not as a covenant between a God resembling a tax collector and his chosen race or religion, but through seeking out Nuit’s love by following the path of Knowledge and Wisdom. The true covenant, which is no pact of blood, is declared in Liber AL, I: 32.
Obey my prophet! follow out the ordeals of my knowledge! seek me only! Then the joys of my love will redeem ye from all pain. This is so: I swear it by the vault of my body; by my sacred heart and tongue; by all I can give, by all I desire of ye all.[4]


1. November 1940—extracts from the polarity work are reproduced in Dancers to the Gods, Alan Richardson [Aquarian Press 1985].
2. According to Liber AL, III: 75, “The Book of the Law is Written and Concealed”.
3. See “Leviathan and the Beast”, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [Ordo Astri].
4. It is helpful to posit a comma after the word “Obey”. Carrying out this instruction requires obedience to the path, not to any person or codified set of commandments.

This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2018

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Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Scarlet Woman or Soul in the Underworld

We mythologise that which we know to be true, yet cannot explain rationally. Since Plato at least, reason has been placed above myth in our culture. The word ‘myth’ is derived from the Greek mu, meaning ‘from the mouth’. To the materialist, this can only mean speech, a story or tale—something less than the rational (exoteric) explanation.

Ishtar, Scarlet Woman: Queen of Heaven, Earth, the Seas and the Underworld
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread … Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw—but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.”[1]

Esoterically, the myth is a vehicle for the non-verbal utterance, silently conveying the secret buried deep in the heart of all things. Thus muo means ‘silent’, ‘a secret’ and ‘to close the mouth’. To reveal an occult secret is to conceal it—for by declaring it in speech or writing, the myth is inevitably retold. Magick and myth are inseparable, and are equally hated by the rationalist—who does not wish to truly know. The rationalist only seeks to acquire that which is useful. The goal of the rationalist is therefore to obtain a purchase on ‘truth’.

Mu, the root of all mythology, leads us to every consideration of knowledge and utterance. To muse on something is to remember. The Greek myth of the Muses developed from the much older Moirai, called the Norns in Norse mythology. The Moirai are personified as three women that spin, weave and cut the thread of life. This mystery is accomplished by the power of ordinance, called Moira by the Greeks and known as Maat (or Mut) to the ancient Egyptians. When the immutable is known, reason becomes mute. No value is afforded to divine apostasia, however, in modern culture. For one thing, no purchase can be made upon it, and therefore no profit made. Music can at least entertain—and there again we have our muse and our mu, reminding us of something we have forgotten. Professional muses or musicians can be paid for their work, but they cannot be rewarded if they should fall silent.

The Absolute assumes many guises when it wishes to communicate with the human mind. ‘God’, as such, is polymorphic in expression. Temples to Egyptian gods were built in Phoenicia, while the oldest of the Phoenician deities, Asherah, was worshipped in Egypt as Qudshu (or Qutesh), the ‘Holy One’. The name of Asherah was later merged with similar sounding goddesses such as Ashtaroth, Astarte and Ishtar. She is the type of the ‘Scarlet Woman’ as termed in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law. She is the woman of blood, the soul in her earthly and heavenly or divine aspects. We need to employ ‘reversed psychology’ to understand much that has been framed in the terms of monotheistic cults. Our lady of heaven is a ‘harlot’ in so far as she is the giver and receiver of all life. She is thus the embodiment of the Holy Graal. Called ‘Babalon’ in Thelemic literature as well as the Enochian Calls of Elizabethan mage John Dee, the Scarlet Woman is identified with the temples of the goddess who was adored from Egypt to Babylonia. She thus symbolises everything despised by the zealous scribes, priestly officials and patriarchs of fanatical monotheism.

Vehicles of the Soul

We have but one word for the soul in the English language, whereas Egyptian and Eastern metaphysics has many terms for the different vehicles or subtle bodies. Fortunately, Liber AL vel Legis has given us a simple and practical metaphysics. The Scarlet Woman of the book is the soul. Left to her natural course she is a vampire, seeking vital sustenance from her environment. Only by undergoing resurrection through the agency of the mysterious serpent Hadit can she overcome the forces of time and death to become an immortal star (Khabs) in the body of Nuit (the Khu). As declared in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8,
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.
Hadit, the Serpent of Knowledge, is the ubiquitous metaphysical point of consciousness within the circle of the absolute, and is simultaneously ‘everywhere’. The Khabs star is the fivefold window or gateway of consciousness that projects the visible world or material universe through the five senses in man. Hadit is then the invisible yet active light, the mysterious source behind it. Nuit, the polar complement of Hadit, the circle that encompasses all, can be conceived as zero. The appearance of Nuit via the mysterious agency of Hadit may be likened to the Khu, the magical spirit-body, formed by the emanations of the Khabs.
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The Ka referred to in Liber AL, III: 37 is the vital body, encompassing the desire principle. The Ka in the natural state is comparable with the Qabalistic Nephesch, ‘animal soul’ or ‘living thing’. It is the soul, the self, the life, the creature, the person, including the appetites and passions. Nephesch also means, ‘to take breath’, and is a word used for ‘soul’, though it more particularly refers to the soul of nature. The breath taken in by the soul is the wind, scent, fragrance or spirit hidden in creation and giving it life. In the Eastern tradition, this breath animating the soul is called prana, which is manifested in time by the kalas, ‘emanations’ or ‘moments’.

The Khaibet, ‘shade’ or ‘shadow’, is not mentioned directly in Liber AL but is integral to the function of the Ka. The Khaibet is more than the ‘shadow’ of Jungian psychology. The Khaibet can be imagined as existing on the threshold of matter—all that appears to the five senses of man—and the etheric web that, while being invisible to the ordinary senses, binds all together in a subtle field, network of threads or fibres. If there is radiance or illumination, the Khabs and Khu, then there must be shadow, the inverse of the light. To a certain extent, the range of the Khaibet includes the physical body or shell. The physical body is likened to a tent for a nomad, for it is a temporary dwelling place.[2]

There is a ‘tug of war’ that commences once the Occult Force begins its ascent, awakening each vehicle in turn. The division wrought in the soul has its analogy with the spiritual war, the ‘war in heaven’ described in mystic literature. Ultimately, the Khaibet shell must be cracked apart. The fallen soul or Scarlet Woman is “torn upon wheels” (or chakras) so the dual principles of Sol and Luna can be released for the Great Work of transmutation upon the soul.[3]
Hail! ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand.[4]
The Ka is divorced or liberated from the shell of the Khaibet or ‘shadow’ through theurgy. The Ka is vitality, the life force itself. By magick, its natural hunger is redirected to the spiritual purpose. If not, then the Ka becomes subject to fatal forces. An appetite for spiritual knowledge can be encouraged and developed through the work. If the person has no real appetite for spiritual knowledge, they simply fail in the work. If they merely have a desire for the acquisition and use of knowledge, if they wish to gain a purchase on knowledge, they fail in what is called the ‘second crossing’.
Will he not sink? Amn. Ho! warrior, if thy servant sink?[5]
The Ka, with all its desires and appetites, strongly moved by lunar magnetism, is the Scarlet Woman or soul in the underworld. She must overcome the hostile forces of the underworld if she is to survive physical mortality. It should not be supposed that the underworld is something only created through belief, or that it is a myth having no root in the so-called real world. Neither is it a ‘place’ or location that is somehow removed entirely from the physical world. The demonic forces of the underworld dominate human nature; the human soul, Nephesch or Ka is the vehicle by which they seek expression in the world.

The Master of Pistis Sophia found five words concealed in the robe that was prepared for him, and declared to the disciples, “Zomah Zomah Ozza Rachama Oziah!”[6] This may be interpreted, ‘Thought! Imagination! The sacrament of love and truth’. The word that translates as ‘thought’ is zomah (ZMH), which has a wide range of meanings including ‘desire’, ‘meditation’, ‘imagination’ and ‘sin’. Thought comes about through the polarity of the Khabs and Khu, which may be likened to Qabalistic Chokmah and Binah. The Khu is the matrix by which the will is formulated.

All astral forms are created by will, desire and imagining. The power of thought and the power of imagination are closely linked—as expressed in the single word, zomah. On the higher arc, the seamless robe of the Khu is the matrix by which the intelligent will-force builds forms. The word astrosome combines two Greek words, astron, ‘a star’, indicating the starry or celestial field, and soma, meaning ‘a body’.[7] Magical practice requires working to develop the astrosome so the practitioner can operate fully on the subtle, non-material planes. There is a close correspondence between the astrosome and what is referred to as the Body of Light, although the latter is used more specifically to refer to a mental construct projected by will, desire and imagination in magical and yogic practice. The astrosome describes everything other than the physical body or shell.

Through magick and yoga, the Ka is given the breath of spirit via the higher intellectual faculty afforded through the agency of the Khu. Training of the mind is required so the mind becomes a better vehicle for the spiritual intuition beyond the Abyss of the human mind. When the solar and lunar forces, symbolised as twin serpents, are stilled by meditation they no longer pull the mind and emotions this way and that. Hadit, who manifests in the human sphere as the Serpent Power or Occult Force, is then able to affect a Great Work upon the soul.[8]


1. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
2. The 12th path on the Tree of Life is Beth, the ‘house of the magician’. The path of the nomad’s tent from Kether to Binah is to be “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union” (Liber AL, I: 29).
3. Liber AL, III: 55.
4. Liber AL, III: 71.
5. Liber AL, I: 51.
6. Pistis Sophia, a Coptic manuscript, was discovered in 1773. The codex was purchased by the British Museum in 1785 from Anthony Askew
7. The astrosome is a rarely used technical term coined by the French occultist Mouni Sadhu, the author of a substantial tome called The Tarot—A Contemporary Course of the Quintessence of Hermetic Occultism. Sadhu invented his own terms, or adapted them, such as ‘elementar’ for an active thought-form. The astrosome is a summation of all that has an autonomous function on what is called the Astral Plane in occultism.
8. Hadit corresponds to that called the Holy Spirit in Christian literature, and Atman in the Eastern scriptures. The Atman of Eastern philosophy was probably derived from the solar-cosmic Egyptian deity Atoum or Atem Ra.

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2018
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Magick of Aquarius

The Tarot trump for the 15th path of Aquarius is The Star XVII. The esoteric title of the path is The Daughter of the Firmament: the Dweller between the Waters.

The Crowley Thoth Tarot Trump The Star XVII

Magick of Aquarius: The Star XVII

1. The placing of The Star XVII 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 15th path of Hé connects Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The 15th path is called the Constituting Intelligence because it is the essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness; the word used for “essence” is etzem, which has the same root as OTz, “tree”, from whence the Tree of Life. The same word etzem can mean “bone”, “body”, “life”, “substance”.

2. The power of manifesting or begetting is the primal power of the Goddess, which is that of division into two; the path therefore corresponds to the Goddess of the Stars. As declared by Nuit in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59:

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

3. Chokmah is the chakra of the Zodiac, as separate and distinct from the fixed stars, which are the domain of Kether and the North Pole of the universe. The Zodiac is the belt or girdle of Venus, the planetary symbol of Nuit in her manifestation as visible nature. 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. Visible light is a veil, an appearance that clothes the nakedness of Nuit, whose essence is the ‘Not’ of space. 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”. It is therefore necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths, for 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.

4. Nuit is the Star Goddess 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.

5. The magical power of the 15th path is that of Astrology; the starry wisdom of the 15th path should not be confused with popular notions of astrology.


From The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth

© Oliver St. John 2016