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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/

Friday, 17 June 2016

Thelema: Romance of the Magical Orders

“What is a valid magical Order?” “What is Thelema?” These are frequently asked questions. We will attempt to examine what Thelema really is, as opposed to what is commonly believed about it. This will include a discussion of the Rosicrucian ideal, the magical philosophy and cosmology of Thelema, and the Magisterium or secret rites of Initiation.

Thelema Romance: AA Richel Collection No. 1489 Courtesy Graham KingThelema is frequently described as a ‘magical system’ but it is no such thing in reality. Neither is it any kind of religion, though it has some affinities with Gnosticism. The magick of Thelema is a transmission. The function of a Thelemic magical Order is to transmit a particular stream of consciousness—which we term as the 93 Current—by which men and women can obtain Gnosis, direct revelation. The purpose of such revelation is to become free from imprisonment in the artificial construct that is commonly thought to be reality. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As declared in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 11,
These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.
The Book of the Law was dictated to Aleister Crowley through the cosmic mediation of Rose Edith Kelly (Rose Crowley). This required the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book.[1] It is the aim of magick to obtain direct contact with the inner planes. The diagram called the Tree of Life best explains the term, ‘inner planes’. The material or objective world of things and objects is called Malkuth the Kingdom, and is placed as the tenth emanation at the foot of the Tree. The greater part of the universe is therefore invisible to the ordinary human senses and reason.

The ideal of the Rosicrucian legacy is that initiation only becomes valid when the person is absolutely dedicated to service. That is, they will sacrifice everything to help others on the path. If they are not in contact with the Intelligences we have spoken of, and if they are not dedicated wholly to service, then they run the risk of becoming either a Black Brother or (actually) insane. A ‘Black Brother’, in the peculiar language of the Western Mystery Tradition, is one that believes, or that wishes others to believe, that the material universe is the sole reality and that it may be understood wholly through rational process. A Black Brother may be a scientist, but may equally be a theologian, religious leader or philosopher in the modern sense of the word—the masks are endless in their variety. According to Kenneth Grant, Introduction to Part Two, Nightside of Eden:
The atavisms of the Black Brothers are the sterile stars born of the speechless or lisping Aeon, for the Word may be vibrated without distortion only via the menstruum of the female.
Thelema is a lunar and feminine mystery. This should come as no surprise, since the first chapter of Liber AL is an oracle from the ancient Egyptian goddess Nuit, comparable to the more recent Laylah or Lilith, the name given to ‘Night’ in the Bible. The Rosicrucian fraternities always differed from religious orthodoxy in two vital points. Firstly, the aim of such a fraternity is to obtain Gnosis or direct knowledge, as distinct from salvation through belief. Secondly, the feminine role as Initiatrix was reinstated, though it was frequently veiled in symbolism such as the rose or the glyph of Venus. Rosicrucian source texts make it quite clear that the fraternity alluded to is first and foremost active and alive on the inner planes, although one could be excused for thinking otherwise when studying the works of ‘authorities’ that produce tome after tome filled with the evidence of facts, dates and lists of the names of the famous.

A magical Order formed in the Rosicrucian tradition typified by the triune Order of the Golden Dawn, Rosy Cross and Silver Star must offer highly specialised training and work structured around grades of initiation based on the Hermetic Tree of Life. Any person that founds an Order of the Golden Dawn—that is, the first five grades from Probationer to Philosophus—must be in contact with the three higher degrees of the Order of the Rosy Cross. Anyone that founds an Order of the Rosy Cross must be in contact with the supernal Order of the Silver Star. The Tree of Life begins with Kether—it is not possible to start a Rosicrucian magical Order from a position somewhere halfway down the Tree and pretend there is nothing above. However, the titles afforded these magical Orders are poetic metaphors for a consciousness current. They are not brand names for historical clubs or archaic fraternities that depend on apostolic succession after the manner of Christian bishops. Nuit has declared an ending of such words and bloodlines in Liber AL, I: 59:
My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.
The Flaming Sword flashes down the planes from Kether the Crown to Malkuth the Kingdom, the world of shells—where things appear and disappear, where creatures are born and die. When the 93 Current reaches Malkuth, it streaks back up the Tree to Kether. The way of initiation through the grades is the way of ascent, which is involution. To evolve is to descend the Tree from Kether to Malkuth.

One Star in Sight

There are various factions of the esoteric Order known generically as the A∴A∴ It has become quite common for Orders with this title to claim exclusive ‘lineage’ and rights to the name. It is probably for this reason that some groups prefer to be mysterious—or even mysteriously ignorant!—as to what the abbreviated title actually stands for. It is no secret. Kenneth Grant, who studied the manuscripts and diaries of Crowley at first hand, revealed that Aster Argos or ‘Silver Star’ is the poetic title of the Rosicrucian-based magical Order. In Latin, it is Argenteum Astrum.

The name is derived from the esoteric title of the Tarot image of the 13th path of Gimel, the Priestess. The 13th path or Priestess of the Silver Star extends from Kether the Crown of the Tree of Life to Tiphereth, the centre of the Ruach Elohim. The path is also called The Uniting Intelligence, or Intelligence of the Unities in the Sepher Yetzirah. Note that ‘Unities’ is plural, not singular. As revealed by Aiwass in Liber AL, I: 1–4:
Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
The unveiling of the company of heaven.
Every man and every woman is a star.
Every number is infinite; there is no difference.
The Company of Heaven also describes the ancient Egyptian Theban initiatic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, revealed to the modern world by the prince priest Aiwass. Khonsu embodies the Logos, Thoth, and Horus the phoenix bird of resurrection or Holy Guardian Angel.

Anyone can purchase a set of the volumes of The Equinox, take the requisite Oaths, form a body of men and women and call it the A∴A∴ if they so wish. If they do not become drunk with power and lose their minds as a consequence, then they might open the ways for others. However, Crowley’s formulation of the Oaths and Tasks of the supernal grades of the Silver Star was flawed.

The Word of the Law

The Greek word Thelema (Θελημα) is the ‘word of the Law’ as stated in Liber AL, I: 39. It is not a law of scriptures, decrees or any exoteric doctrine or body of religious teachings. According to Liber AL, III: 49,
I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
The fourfold word is Do what thou wilt. The Law of Thelema is wholly a spiritual and natural one, not a human one. Some but not all human beings have this secret nature within them, and of those, some are destined to discover it. There is nothing new about Thelema; it is not limited by time. The word Thelema means, ‘will’—not the personal will that imagines it has deterministic power but the impersonal will-force that is personified as Hadit. A comparative and perhaps better-known deity is Shiva in the Tantrik tradition, the supreme creator and destroyer of the universe.

Thelema, ‘will’, and Agape, ‘love’, both add to 93 by Greek Qabalah, expressive of the 93 Current. As the word Thelema is Qabalistically identical to Agape—spiritual love, not romantic or erotic love—the 93 Current well expresses the spiritual intelligence of the universe going forth. Consciousness exists everywhere in the universe, though it is not of the universe that we perceive, and can never be known for it is the Knower, otherwise termed Hadit. As declared by the Serpent of Knowledge, Hadit, in Liber AL, II: 3–4,
In the sphere I [Hadit] am everywhere the centre, as she [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.
As consciousness is everywhere, it is not limited to the earth and the human species that has infected the planet with an artificial construct it likes to think of as ‘intelligence’. Wild birds and creatures are sentient, in contradiction to the prevailing scientism that has formed its doctrines around the need to preserve and continue the artificial hell in which Adam and Eve are imprisoned until they come to know the true state of affairs.


All cosmologies are misleading. The best sense of the word ‘cosmology’ is the literal one, from the Greek: ‘a conversation about the universe’. However, that is not the meaning of the term as it is commonly understood. Metaphysics is also misleading, because the academic understanding of that word is only ‘about the matter’, the physics, which paved the way for scientism. The ancients had an entirely different way of thinking that cannot be grasped by dogmatic reasoning, whether that is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in Liber AL, II: 32,
Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.
Ancient metaphysics, aeons before the term was coined, was based on detailed observation of nature, no different from the Thelemic love under will. Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. To assist the restoration of the Tree of Life, we can happily forget the old word of Moses and instead invoke AShRH, the ‘woman’, as deity name in Kether. From the fragrance or Shakti emanations of Nuit-Babalon comes forth the tree from which the gods are sprung. As a cognate study, Ishtar is the happy goddess of the three worlds, heaven, earth and the underworld. The same three worlds are depicted on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing.

The gods of Liber AL vel Legis are interchangeable, as are all Egyptian gods or neters (‘principles’). They can be different things on different planes—as is the Holy Guardian Angel, another metaphor. There is a Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of Liber AL, and also in the Stele of Revealing, the only fragment we have of the original Theban Thelemic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu. There is also a trinity of sorts in the title of the book’s manuscript, ‘L’, as 30. The primal trinity is the Qabalistic Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb. The Sethian Gnosis, among the books ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, asserts a trinity of spirit or fragrance, light and dark. The light and dark had no moral implications of good or evil, for the Gnosis precedes, by vast ages of time, all dualistic theologies. The fragrance, or spirit-intelligence, permeates the light and dark equally; it knows them; thus the cosmic womb or Matrix is formed.


The original meaning of the word Magisterium is ‘pertaining to a mystery or secret rite’. If we consider the legacy of the patriarchs of Constantinople, then we might conclude the rites of Mithras would have been better kept in the subterranean vaults. No one can exclusively own or possess the Magisterium. Anyone can proclaim that they do, but sooner or later people will find them out.

All magical Orders, their visible custodians and adepts, their teachings, their Magisterium, belong in a certain sense to the Order of Qliphoth, the Qabalistic World of Shells. What we see is what we are. Hence, the utter impossibility of teaching anything to anyone about magick let alone anything really spiritual. One of the snares in the system of grades as presented by Crowley is that he repeats the word ‘attainment’ hundreds of times, as though there were something to attain and someone to attain it; this can have a hypnotic effect on the serious student. The emphasis on attainment places initiation under the restriction of deterministic thinking. By setting forth to show that magick is no different than material science, and can be explained in the same terms, Crowley unwittingly prepared the way for reductionism and psychologisation. Future generations, born of a Wordless Aeon, would have great difficulty discerning a difference.

We are in a realm where language will always limit us unless we think differently.[2] The different mode of thinking can be described as a backwards flowing stream, and yet it cannot be taught; magick is not what we do, or attain or can get, but what we are.


1. The Egyptian name ‘Aiwass’ means, ‘He who was ordained in Thebes’.
2. By ‘thinking differently’, we refer to the mode of analogous thought. See ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

© Oliver St. John 2016, 2018 
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