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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, 12 February 2015

Magick and the Evolution of Consciousness

An oracle is an intelligible vision and voice transmitted from the depths of consciousness to a human medium, sometimes called a ‘cosmic mediator’. Historically, the oracle was delivered by the priest or priestess of the god. The most ancient operative method is that the god speaks true words through the consecrated pythoness.

Magick and Evolution of Consciousness: Aleister CrowleySometimes the recipient claims an authoritative and universal meaning to the oracle. In 1909, Aleister Crowley underwent an epiphany. According to his own accounts, he accepted that the oracle he had received in Cairo five years earlier, through the mediumship of his wife Rose, was the annunciation of a New Aeon. Furthermore, that it expressed a ‘New Law for Humanity’. In the 1938 edition of the transmission, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, he wrote:
“The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the race.”

The institution of Thelema (‘Will’) as a ‘new religion’ came about in relatively recent times, long after the death of Crowley. The wisdom text received in Cairo emanated from the cult centre of Thebes in ancient Egypt. There was no word in the Egyptian language for ‘religion’. However, the scribing of the oracle of Aiwass in 1904 coincided with new discoveries in atomic physics that would, forty years later, make possible the splitting of the atom.

Magick and Evolution of Consciousness: Dion Fortune (Violet Firth)Crowley was not alone in thinking that human consciousness evolves and undergoes periodic shifts in perspective. The English occult practitioner and novelist Dion Fortune (1890–1946), although younger than Crowley, was of the same generation in cultural terms. She also felt her mission was to assist the evolution of human consciousness—through small groups of people working directly on the subconscious of the race. In 1941, while the Battle of Britain was raging, Dion Fortune wrote of another battle, a magical one.
We work by inoculating the collective subconsciousness of the race with certain archetypal ideas which have been communicated to us psychically in the course of our group meditation.[1]
Fortune went on to say, in the same letter, that she was aware that the enemy might be using the same tactics. It was a ‘war of ideas’. She therefore used the word ‘inoculation’ in the sense that she felt the national collective subconscious needed to be protected against the incursion of ‘foreign’ ideas, in this case the ideology of the Nazis, much in the same way that the body’s immune system might need fortification in dealing with a new virus.
The innumerable individuals who make up a nation share a common subconsciousness below the personal subconsciousness of each one; this is called the racial or collective subconsciousness, and it plays a very important part in both individual and national life. Here abide the archetypal ideas that are common to each one of us and that we never have to learn. These give rise to myth and symbol, dream, poetry and art. It is this level of subconsciousness that is appealed to by national heroes; it is this level that is manipulated by spellbinding demagogues. It is here that the trends and limitations of the national character are determined, and from here that its inspiration is drawn.
Both Crowley and Fortune felt, even when not under the intense pressure of the war years, that humanity is doomed unless it undergoes a radical change of consciousness. It is probably no coincidence that the aim of mysticism, magick and yoga for many centuries, perhaps for all of time, has been concerned with consciousness itself. Both magicians, however, were applying what were then new scientific conventions of thought to their magical strategies. For example, consider Darwin’s theories of evolution and Jung’s mapping of the human psyche with new terms such as ‘archetypes’ and the ‘collective subconscious’.

Magick and Evolution of Consciousness: Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad)
One of Crowley’s followers, Charles Stansfeld Jones (1886–1950), declared that the Aeon of Horus that Crowley claimed to have inaugurated in 1904 was abortive and ended after only forty-four years. According to Jones, from 1948 an Aeon of Maat—Truth and Justice—had come about. Horus and Maat are two important neters or gods from the ancient Egyptian pantheons.[2] Horus is the word that must be perfected in Maat, truth.

Another follower of Crowley, Jack Parsons (1914–1952), a noted American rocket scientist, performed a magical operation called the Babalon Working in 1946. He subsequently claimed that a new epoch was about to begin, similar to Jones’s Aeon of Truth and Justice, providing a better vehicle for the Law of Thelema. It seems that Parsons, for all of his brilliance as a scientist, magically mixed up the planes. He confused gods with elemental spirits and elemental spirits with elementars or thought-forms. As if that was not enough, he confused an elemental spirit with a woman (that he subsequently married) and a goddess, all at the same time.

Although Crowley saw that both Jones and Parsons had confused the planes in magick, he found himself unable to apply that wisdom to himself. It seems from his writings and letters that he truly believed himself to be the chosen prophet of a New Aeon. His interpretation of the Book of the Law was indeed so literal that he supposed the Scarlet Woman mentioned in the book might manifest as an actual human woman, replete with the distinguishing ‘signs’ of red hair and green eyes! He also felt that the ‘pinnacles of power’ mentioned in III: 45 of the book in relation to the Scarlet Woman referred to actual world governance placed, whether secretly or not, in his own hands:
Then will I lift her to pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall she see and strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.
Although Crowley frequently used metaphor and symbol to explain his ideas, he would switch to a literal interpretation of scripture when it suited him. The title he gave himself, the ‘Beast 666’, is a case in point. Although much of his writing expresses irony, it seems that Crowley really thought, at times at least, that the beast referred to in St. John’s book of Revelation referred to him personally.

Magical Evolution of Consciousness: R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz
R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887–1961) does not appear to have suffered from the megalomania that had infected Crowley. In 1948, Lubicz wrote in his Symbol and the Symbolic that new discoveries in science had led to a general expansion of human consciousness. He predicted that the balance of power would change from politicians to scientists, due to the abstract knowledge required to understand the new science and its applications. Furthermore, once scientists gained this power they would be helpless to prevent themselves from driving the race towards global destruction. Lubicz considered that the only way to prevent this disaster would be to work to understand how the minds of the ancient Egyptians expressed scientific, magical and philosophical ideas simultaneously through the use of symbolism. Although Lubicz was not a follower of Crowley, and certainly did not regard himself as any kind of prophet, there is a comparison to be made between his insistence on the necessity of developing a non-rational or suprarational mode of consciousness. Both Lubicz and Crowley felt that the projection of human consciousness into areas that transcend the bounds of rationality was not something for a few yogis or sages to do in a remote palace attended by acolytes, but was something absolutely necessary for human survival. According to Lubicz, writing in 1948:
We see political power passing increasingly into the hands of very small groups of doctrinairians, and Russia is a valuable example of the logical outcome of the socialist principle, which becomes a proletarian dictatorship. But this is a question merely of political power, opposite which there will necessarily arise, scientific power. If the former can influence people’s consciousness through force, the latter, far more tragic, will influence spiritual destiny, not through force, but through conviction. Then the masses will no longer have any choice but to believe what only a small group of men will understand. Believe and obey: this is already the case now, but obviously it will soon grow worse.[3]
In many ways Lubicz, unhindered by grandiose notions about himself, saw further than the English occultists. Although he did not mention that an expansion of consciousness (in collective terms) might well be followed by a contraction of consciousness, the implications of ‘Believe and obey’ are certainly that.

An expansion of new ideas, new thought, artistic, political and social experimentation, came to flower in the Western world in the 1960s and 70s—though it was, perhaps, a somewhat unsavoury bloom. The pop art writings and poems of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and their followers are a case in point. While these are now an established part of the Western artistic and cultural tradition, the naive notions of the beatniks and hippies led a narcissistic generation to complacency, cynical opportunism or the despair of nihilism—for those who actually took any of it seriously. Entrepreneurs swiftly moved in and cleaned up in the wake, finding fast profit to be made in the sale of therapies and ‘alternative healing’.

The radicals of the 1960s assumed ownership of ancient spiritual traditions and spoke of them with an authoritative air. Yet what little they did understand was due to imbibing powerful hallucinogenics. To put this in metaphorical terms, they broke down the door of the temple then claimed ownership of it. Their legacy has succeeded only in nullifying the minds of future generations, leaving them ever more susceptible to mass exploitation. Counting only thirty years on from the end of the 1970s to the turn of the twenty-first century, technological gadgetry and the mass addiction to increasingly trivial yet self-aggrandising applications of the new science has already superseded the desire to change anything in the world. The ‘sleepwalkers’, as termed by Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, have allowed the dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley to become a chilling reality.[4]

The esoteric movements of the twentieth century, though often wildly experimental, had clearly defined aims and purposes. They can hardly be blamed for the ocean of psychobabble that now passes for the esoteric. The so-called sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies has terminated abruptly in a plethora of universally accessible pornography, much of it brutal and dehumanising. Educational institutions are now commercial factories designed to turn the young into obedient units of productivity. In return for industrial slavery, the masses are given ‘powerful’ technological toys that monitor and track their every move so that new and better products can be sold to them. They are rewarded with social media that create the illusion of community and communion where in fact none exists. Isolation and alienation are now considered to be quite normal. Prison populations have increased to such an extent that national governments cannot build new prisons fast enough to house all the ‘offenders’. So-called mental health issues now affect most urban populations in one form or another, directly or indirectly. The global wildlife population has declined by half in little more than fifty years, a direct affect of the vast expansion of science-based industrial mass production. In the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, were a survey to be conducted most persons would confidently state that science has made the world a better place than it was at any time in history. ‘Believe and obey’.

In the immediate aftermath of an atomic explosion a vacuum is formed. Air is sucked back into the vacuum, heated to an incredible temperature and then blown back out again. This gives rise to the mushroom cloud of dust and debris that towers into the atmosphere seconds after the nuclear flash. To form an analogy, we now see, in terms of consciousness, an equally unprecedented spiritual vacuum a little more than half a century after the Western powers tested the first atomic bombs on the unsuspecting civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Magical Evolution of Consciousness: Kenneth Grant
Kenneth Grant, considered by some to be the magical heir to the throne left vacant by Crowley, approached the whole idea of magical consciousness transformation with great subtlety. Grant nonetheless appears to have accepted the plans for humanity laid down by his predecessors Crowley and Fortune, albeit in a somewhat guarded or cloaked manner. Grant appears to have embraced the evolutionary ideal, while at the same time approaching it from an ‘averse’ perspective—typical of all his thought and writing, which is exclusively concerned with the dark or shadow side of the occult.

It does not appear from his writings at least that Grant had any interest in saving humanity; in fact he sometimes gave the impression that he could not wait to get rid of the whole damned species. His grand notion was that only advanced occultists, with the necessary keys, would survive an imminent inrush of non-human intelligence that will devastate humanity and clear away all civilisation as we know it. He saw it the duty of Thelemic magicians—those not under the spell of ‘Crowleyanity’—to work to bring about this influx of non-human consciousness from beyond the Abyss, outside of time and space.

On the 21st June 1998, Grant issued An Official Statement concerning what was then known as his Typhonian OTO.[5] In the Official Statement—really an imperative to his Order—he wished to remind members and aspirants that,
It has been considered desirable to remind prospective candidates for membership—and even some members—that ‘creative occultism’ is not, per se, the final aim of our magick, but merely its mode of operation.
Grant went on to assert that the ‘birth pangs’ of the New Aeon “have yet to wake up the mass of humanity to the perils that lie ahead unless certain steps are taken, now.” There follows a breathtakingly bold disclosure of his plans for humanity, which involve appointing a central government directed by a “Supreme and Most Holy King who shall be the Outer Head of the Order” (himself, at the time of writing). To conclude the explanation, Grant wrote:
This is a cosmic vision and we are concerned with no other terrestrial aim. When the entire Planet becomes Thelematized by the vibrations of the Typhonian Current, then only will it have been prepared for restoration to Those that once possessed it, and that originated the initial life-wave.
Although Grant’s imperative may be interpreted as a metaphor for personal initiation, it is clear from the Statement, as well as his books and letters, that Grant was very serious indeed about using magick to change the consciousness of all of humanity. Looking at the state of affairs around the world, this can hardly be thought of as an ignoble aim. Grant shared exactly the same aim, in that respect, as his predecessor Aleister Crowley, and indeed, Dion Fortune—two of the most influential occultists of modern times.

Was something a little awry with the attempt by twentieth century occultists to manipulate human evolution? The frequently ambiguous philosophy of the likes of Crowley, Stansfeld Jones and Parsons does not bear favourable comparison with such symbolic cyphers as the Pyramid Texts, the allegorical narratives of the Bhagavad Gita or the Epic of Gilgamesh. We might suppose that the magical evolutionists succeeded only in transforming themselves into megalomaniacs, believing in their own propaganda no less than any political or religious fanatics. The charade of playing God-on-earth still allures power-hungry occultists that, like the race as a whole, seem hell-bent on hurtling like lemmings towards self-annihilation. To quote from another ‘sacred’ scripture, the book of Job, 18: 8,
For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.
The threat to freedom and individual liberty that Crowley warned of nonetheless presses hard upon the Western world. Nature abhors a vacuum; sooner or later it will be filled with something. Perhaps there is a case, after all, for working directly on the subconscious of the race, as Dion Fortune put it? Unfortunately, governments, giant corporations and advertising agencies have already been doing precisely that with the help of the new technologies at their disposal. The problem with the latest so-called social revolution that began in the 1960s is that it strove for individual freedom and liberty by appealing to a weak force. The ‘Do what thou wilt’ of the Book of the Law—the ‘law of the strong’—is easily translated into ‘do whatever you like’ by those too lazy or indifferent to look deeper. It was not intended that way, but in a world dominated by the compulsive appeal of the advertising slogan to simpletons, a kind of reverse alchemy takes place: the subtle is transmuted into the gross. Hedonism leads inexorably to helpless addiction and dependence. Materialism dominates Western minds.

Of late we have seen the inevitable reaction setting in—the resurgence of puritanical hypocrisy by the wealthy governing classes, used as a lever for an increasingly totalitarian state. The spiritual vacuum will not be filled by Nihilism, Hedonism or a youth-culture obsessed by fashion, popular music, digital toys and other saleable commodities. It is unlikely we will see the Western world turning back once more to religion of any kind, though there are certainly those that hope to reintroduce it by violence and tyranny. The notion that magick and yoga can be about changing the consciousness of other people is unique to the twentieth century. All of the mystical and magical wisdom texts before that time eschew interference in the affairs of benighted mankind.

To imagine that Thelema—as a religion—might supersede the existing world religions and put everything to rights is plainly absurd. The world religions were all propagated, without exception, in the vain hope of unifying people and cultures. Such attempts at unification have always succeeded only in creating more human misery and suffering through division and conflict. The Utopian idealism of the early twentieth century soon collapsed into Dystopia, a state of affairs now bolstered and perpetuated by the vast expansion of technological dependency.

Aeons can be measured in countless ways, but one thing all aeons or grand epochs in time have in common is that they come and they go, along with their prophets. Human consciousness certainly undergoes periodic shifts of alignment. There can be no doubt that the way the ancient Egyptians thought and expressed truth in the frequently abstract symbolism of hieroglyphs is as different from our modern conventions as the language of the crow or eagle is to that of the mouse. The symbol is not known by the object, but by its latency. Meaning is found by following the symbol back to its source.

The quest for the immortal stone or elixir of life continues, and is no different now than it was thousands of years ago. The timeless wisdom is truly timeless, while that which is temporal is earthbound and therefore as mutable and perishable as are our fragile human bodies. Man is dust and returns to dust. The immortal stone must be actively sought, and with great determination and moral courage. No one can teach it or give it, as no one may speak of it and no one may possess it. And yet, as was frequently stated in ancient, anonymously written alchemical texts, it is played with by children and thrown away in the streets every day as though it were worthless.


1. Dion Fortune, The Magical Battle of Britain: The War Letters of Dion Fortune, edited by Gareth Knight [Skylight Press, 2012].
2. Neters are universal principles visibly apparent in nature, though we translate the term as ‘gods’.
3. R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Symbol and the Symbolic, translated by Lucie Lamy [Inner Traditions International]. The italics are those of the author.
4. “Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies.” Gurdjieff posited that the mass of humanity live as unconscious automatons. See In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, P.D. Ouspensky.
5. Starfire—A Journal of the New Aeon, Vol. II No. 2 [Starfire Publishing]. A legal battle was subsequently fought and lost from the English side, over the rights to use the name Ordo Templi Orientis and its symbol. While Kenneth Grant and his followers complained that the American ‘Caliphate’ OTO were using a magical and spiritual symbol as a brand product, the English side lacked the finances and legal clout to pursue the case. From then on, Kenneth Grant’s magical Order has been known as Ordo Typhonis, the Typhonian Order.

This essay is from Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018

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