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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.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Magick of Earth and Stars


The Hermetic Qabalah has developed into a modern and universally applicable system of magick and yoga. It has not been necessary to change either the sephiroth or the paths of the Tree of Life to realise the powerful magical and yogic applications of the Pythagorean model. The changes to the allocations of Tarot trumps to the paths introduced by Aleister Crowley have proved to be more than adequate.(1) We have modified some of the divine names that are keys to the inner working of the Qabalah so the magical systems that have their basis in the Qabalah become harmonious. It is not wise to invoke the monotheistic God of Judaeo-Christian scriptures and then proceed to invoke ancient Egyptian, Phoenician and Assyrian deities. Certainly, this has been attempted for more than a century since the most recent occult revival, but it is akin to playing a piano by bashing it with a lump hammer.

At this point, an enquiry naturally arises. Why should occultists based in Europe, Australia and the United States, perform yoga and magical rites that involve the calling in of deities whose natural home is ancient Egypt and the Middle East? This is a valid question to ask, and the enquiry can take us down some interesting avenues of exploration. After the death of Dion Fortune (Violet Firth), her Society of Inner Light introduced a strict rule for their students that only the Gods of ancient Britain should be worked with. This is usually taken to mean Celtic deities, although scholars have argued that the deities of the Anglo-Saxons have as much right to be regarded in this light.(2) The idea is that one should work with the spiritual and natural forces of one’s native land. On the face of it this rule seems to originate from Nationalism, but there is sound reasoning behind it. Local deities, whose worship continued for many thousands of years until it began to be suppressed by religious monotheists some 1500 years ago, were rooted deep in the land itself.

The genius loci, the spirit or atmosphere of a particular place or terrestrial location, evolved through magical manipulation to become the complex Neteru or Principles as exemplified by the ancient Egyptian Gods. The Egyptians called the shrines nome centres, and there may be an etymological connection with that word and the well-known earth elementals of European folk traditions. Over time, many of the nome centres developed into large temple complexes, even cities. There were 42 of these nome centres in Egypt, 20 in the North and 22 in the South. The principal centres followed the course of the river Nile from the hot desert lands of the South to the swampy delta region. As the Nile mirrored the celestial Milky Way, so the earth locations were associated with star systems.

The association of nomes and Neters with the stars was not, however, a product of evolution, it had more to do with involution—going back, returning to the source. For this reason, Egyptian hieroglyphics always look backward, not forward. The ancient Egyptians did not share modern conventional delusions concerning ‘progress’. There is one hieroglyph, though, that does not look backward or forward, and that is the hieroglyph for a location or place. The circle-cross is the earliest form of the tau-cross, “the mark”.

X Marks the Spot!
Hieroglyph for the Mark or Crossing

Spots and stars are cognate terms in the language of ancient Egypt, and it is for this reason the starry goddess was depicted as spotted, or as dressed in the skin of a spotted beast. The earliest magical cults on earth are known to have been guided and instructed by the Moon and the stars. The circle-cross, where two or more co-ordinates meet to define and locate an event, marks a nativity or crossing from one world or plane of existence to another. A nexus of supersensitive threads within a wider matrix coalesce here to yield their secrets in the crossing. Whoever crosses is changed by the event in its finality. In practice, the secrets are revealed over time as the word from the matrix is assimilated. Such knowledge is formed both within and outside of temporal conditions. The magical memory is the means and the basis of such congress between planes of existence, subtly infused by and ultimately revealing the stellar Gnosis beyond matter.

Location, in the magical sense, refers to an aperture in the Astral Light fixed by the willed intent of the practitioner and opened by communication with the Holy Guardian Angel or celestial counterpart. Such a location may be anchored to an earthly one charged with elemental potency, such as a nome centre, a standing stone or well. A terrestrial location becomes an aperture between the worlds when memory is carried or conveyed by the spirit or intelligence of the magical operation. The naming of a place provides a vital clue to its occult potential, as does the geological structure and position relative to the appearance of Sun, Moon and stars as they trace their celestial paths through a terrestrial year, irradiating and magnetising it through each circle of time. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the eternal is the shen ring carried by the vulture, Mut. The shen has every meaning of hovering or alighting like a bird, circling or going around. The circling thus defines the mark of the place or mark of the beast. The vulture is an apt totem, for in consuming death she gives life to the spirit.

The Egyptian Shen Ring carried by the Vulture Mut or Nekhebit

Egyptian Shen Ring carried by Mut

The crossing points or events in time become magnetically sealed in the memory of the place and held by the beasts or creatures that are attracted to it through their likeness. Some of these creatures act as elemental guardians, warding off all forces that are inimical. Hence the symbol of the circle-cross was depicted as being held by the fierce lioness goddess Sekhet, and was also inscribed upon amulets for protection against the hostile forces of the underworld. The Egyptian goddess Taweret, also associated with the mark of the beast, was the image placed at the North Pole and celestial centre of the universe in Egyptian astronomical centres. She is thus the ultimate crossing point, and is the keeper of the net or network of stresses that form the matrix and the Ring-Pass-Not of the Abyss in Qabalistic terms.

Like the chakras of Eastern Laya or Kundalini Yoga, the nomes were first and foremost etheric locations when associated with the local deities. One of the differences between the Hermetic Tantra-yoga of the West and Laya Yoga of the East is that the latter works on the etheric plane while the former is operated on the astral plane. The etheric plane is the closest non-physical or subtle plane to matter. For this reason, the chakras in the Laya Yoga system are related to physical organs and glands, even the endocrine system, and have elemental correspondences. The chakras of Hermetic Qabalah, on the other hand, are corresponded to the planets.

Every physical object or body has an etheric counterpart, and this applies equally to geographical locations. The etheric counterpart may best be thought of as a network of subtle electromagnetic stresses that, while not having physical substance, weave around and interact with matter. The practice of Laya Yoga naturally begins with the earth or base chakra. The power is then worked upwards through each chakra in turn. Hermetic Tantra-yoga is not dissimilar, but we begin by drawing down the celestial power from the stars, along the path called the Lightning Flash on the Tree of Life, before drawing the occult force upwards again. The etheric plane is also involved, but in a less direct fashion as we work primarily from the astral or Yetziratic level as it is called in the Qabalah.

In modern towns and cities the genius loci may persist, but through millennia of neglect and urban development it is often relegated to subterranean vaults deep below the pavement and concrete structures. Such spirits may account for some of the hauntings and other supernatural phenomena still encountered, though increasingly rarely, by citizens who have retained something of the psychic faculties of their ancestors.

Our Foundation Temple in Southwest England is dedicated to Babalon, a deity whose cult centre once extended from what is now known as Iraq to Arabia and the land of Egypt. A short time ago a shrine to Isis was excavated in the middle of London, and her artefacts were discovered in an ancient cave alongside Celtic artefacts dating from the same time. In the present age, our magical work is to reach out to the stars. Seen from afar, the earth is a pinpoint of blue light among countless stars and galaxies.

This is not to deny the importance of sending roots down into the earth upon which our physical shells live and move and have their being. Working with the shape, form and invisible spirit of the place where we live is a key principle in the Tantrik arts. If we travel far enough towards the heavens, we find that all of time and space is within equal reach. If we dig down deep enough, then we find the sun-star that burns at the core of the earth is equally distant from any location on the surface of the planet. Our magical system is a universal one, and as we can reach out to any star in the cosmos, so we must extend our reach to every corner of the globe.


Notes

(1) Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57: “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.” The Star XVII of Aquarius is placed on the 15th path and The Emperor IV of Aries to the 28th path. The Hebrew letters do not change positions, only the Tarot trumps and associated correspondences.

(2) See Anglo-Saxon Runes by T. Linsell.

This article was first published in Fortified Island, Journal of the Irish Order of Thelema, Autumn Equinox Anno IV-1 (2014). It is also included in the book, Liber 373 Astrum Draconis.

© Oliver St. John 2014, 2018