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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/

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 the sake of love’.
3. Liber AL vel Legis, III: 55.
4. Liber AL vel Legis, III: 71.
5. Liber AL vel Legis, 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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