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Oliver St. John is the author of books on Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v. New articles and essays are posted at Tantrika Books.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Enochian Magick and Hermetic Initiation

Some ‘experts’ as well as the usual armchair occultists say the system of Thirty Aethyrs cannot be equated to the magical grades. It has been successfully used, however, in relation to the grade system, in theory and in practice. There follows a guide to the Thirty Aethyrs and initiation, a synopsis of the Hermetic path.

Table of the 30 Aethyrs: Ritual Magick, Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light

The spiritual and practical work that needs to be mastered in the grades beyond Tiphereth was almost completely undefined until the system of Thirty Aethyrs was thoroughly explored and mapped. Thanks to the Enochian magical system, there is no longer any excuse for those that insist on parroting the shibboleths of old times, such as “Only Jesus Christ has really attained the grade of Tiphereth”, and that “No human being can cross the Abyss”, or that “An Ipsissimus would be taken up by God and disappear from the face of the earth”. In a certain sense, those three statements are completely true. The Initiate will understand precisely how they can be true or false. For all practical purposes we can regard such wisdom, at best, as an attempt to warn foolhardy magicians against claiming grades of initiation they are not entitled to. We deal with this by insisting that grades of initiation are relative to each person, and have no meaning whatsoever outside of the Order.

Although the Tree of Life is undoubtedly the best ever symbol devised for charting the universe and understanding all relations between things, it nonetheless has shortcomings with the higher magical grades. Once Tiphereth is reached it is no longer possible to attain further grades of Initiation simply by learning ordinary knowledge, acquiring technical expertise, and astrally exploring the Tree of Life and other symbolism through pathworking exercises. The situation becomes worse when we contemplate the crossing of the Abyss, for that threshold marks the limits of the human mind.

The system of skrying the Thirty Aethyrs of Enochian Magick supplies a more than adequate solution to this problem. However, the Thirty Aethyrs must be explored 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 entire course of Initiation, everything that is possible for the magician to know and understand, can be linked to the system of Thirty Aethyrs.

Thelemic Sigillum Dei Aemeth

Thelemic Sigillum Dei Aemeth, Ordo Astri

The Terrestrial Plane and the Watchtowers

The material plane is so-called objective reality, governed by the dual illusion of matter and time as perceived by the ordinary senses of man. 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 the Four Watchtowers of the Universe. Beyond these, in ever widening circles, are the Thirty Aethyrs, which are conveniently thought of as levels of consciousness.

The Etheric Plane: 30th Aethyr (TEX)

This, the lowest or most material of the Aethyrs, is a realm considered by occultists to be immediately behind that of physical matter. It extends into matter in a certain sense, while the upper reaches of the Etheric Plane touch the lower regions of the Astral Plane. This realm is the traditional abode of ghosts, ghouls, phantoms and vampires, and is the main reservoir for what is often called the supernatural. It is also the main field of operation for psychics, professional mediums and the like, who 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, and are permeated with a heavy sense of judgement and sin, as well as currents or tides of intense desire and longing. Once NIA, the 24th Aethyr is reached, one 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 the Hermetic Plane is between NIA and TOR, the 23rd Aethyr, and is identical to the Veil of Paroketh and the grade of Dominus Liminis.

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

The Hermetic Plane consists of realms of pure consciousness that cannot be known by 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 that is 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 their own thought processes. In POP, the 19th Aethyr, the first intimations of the Abyss are received. In ZEN, the 18th Aethyr, the Adeptus Major is prepared for the initiation to the grade of Adeptus Exemptus. The highest level of the Hermetic Plane is encountered in the 14th Aethyr of UTA, which is the last Aethyr that can be explored before the Oath of the Abyss is taken.

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

The higher grades, more so than any others, involve the whole of life’s experience. The Magister Templi is gradually prepared for the crossing of the Abyss. It is extremely unwise to attempt to enter the higher Aethyrs without the corresponding degree or level of initiation and experience


A complete guide to Initiation and the Enochian system of Thirty Aethyrs is included in Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light.

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2018

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