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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, 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

Books by Oliver St. John

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