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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.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Magical Beast of Apocalypse

Charles Stansfeld Jones, otherwise known as Frater Achad, showed forth brilliance and erudition in his book, The Egyptian Revival.(1) However, although Achad said in the Preface to the book that it was written “in the spirit of Suggestive Inquiry”, further study reveals he perhaps took the Qabalistic symbolism a little too literally. He clearly felt he had made a Great Discovery in reversing the alphabet and relocating the Tarot trumps, and went so far as to think there might be some “Absolute Reason in the Primitive Universal Tradition”. In spite of this—a magical faux pas that caused some upset to his mentor, Aleister Crowley—Achad produced some highly original insights, which make his work well worth serious study. In Chapter IV of The Egyptian Revival he writes:

We have seen in tracing out the Traditions that there have been two Wills at work, the Divine and the Personal, and that through the Ages these have appeared in conflict. One is the Bright Star or Pentagram of Unconquered Will, the other the Dark Star of the Reversed Pentagram. These two Stars are symbolised by the hands of Man, or the Magician, one raised to Heaven in the Sign of SolvĂ©, the other directed downwards in the Sign of Coagula. When united they form a Ten-fold Star … which exactly symbolises this uniting of the Rising and Setting Sun, or the Twins Sut-Har. For the Two Wills are Harmonised in Tiphereth. But when we consider Malkuth, it is a question of Raising the Fallen Daughter, the Animal Soul, or matter, to the Throne of the Mother, Understanding … The Union of the two Stars as a Ten-fold Star in Malkuth is the Work before us … as promised by the Rainbow of the old order.

On the following pages the inspiration fades a little as Achad grapples with the problems raised by his upturning of the correspondences.(2) However, this one idea alone provides us with an opportunity to gain an overview of the whole path of initiation, as mapped out in the Qabalistic grade system of Thelemic magical Orders. From the tenfold union of the upright and averse pentagrams comes forth the elevenfold star, which is the key to magical initiation. According to Aleister Crowley, the number 11 is “The general number of magick, or energy tending to change” (Liber 777). The number 11 is also that of Nuit, according to Liber AL vel Legis, I: 60:

My number is 11, as are all their numbers who are of us.

Da’ath, Knowledge, is the eleventh sephira—really a non-sephira. To understand the significance of the elevenfold star of Thelemic initiation, we need to examine the importance of Malkuth the Kingdom in the whole scheme of things.

Ordo Astri: Elevenfold Star of Initiation

The Pyramid

The magical formula of the Neophyte may apply to each of the three Orders of the Golden Dawn, Rosy Cross and Silver Star. The Golden Dawn “Z” Formula expresses the Magick of Light, the Sword (descending current) and Serpent (ascending current). The Sword and Serpent is also the key symbolism of the grade of 5=6, Adeptus Minor. There is no difference between Adonai, as the ascending Serpent Power within the Initiate, and Typhon or Apophis.

The ritual chamber of Malkuth may be conceived as a womb and tomb for initiation. The four walls beyond the magick circle are the four classical elements, the faces of the Sphinx of Nature and cardinal directions. In our Neophyte ritual, Phoenix, the circle is triangulated by two officers wearing the masks of Isis (Hegemon) and Horus (Hiereus), plus a third ‘invisible station’ of Thoth as the Word or Logos, the reconciler of the dual forces. Once the circle is triangulated in this way, the vertical projection from the centre evokes the apex of the pyramid above. This comes about spontaneously in the same way that the six-fold hexagram appears above and below the magician when four pentagrams are placed around the circle in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. The inner aspect of Malkuth is defined here by a tetrahedronal pyramid, whose apex is, figuratively speaking, Iacchus or the Holy Guardian Angel. The tetrahedron is not only a symbol corresponding to the 31st path of The Aeon XX, but is also a symbol of Da’ath, the eleventh sephira that is yet not a sephira as such. It is the key to magical transmutation.

Isis, or the Hegemon in the Neophyte ceremony, is the aspect of the Holy Guardian Angel that speaks kind words on behalf of the soul. Horus, or the Hiereus, is the Darkness of the Soul that must be overcome by the Candidate. These may be understood as dual aspects of the Holy Guardian Angel. The third aspect is symbolised by the “invisible station” of Thoth behind the two pillars in the Hall of Double Maat. Thoth, or Tahuti, stands in the sign of the Enterer until the moment that the Candidate swears the Oath at the altar—for one must speak true words in the presence of the Gods. Thoth then draws back in the sign of Silence.

The Great Dragon

The apex of the Pyramid of Initiation—being pointed—may be likened to the horn on the head of the great dragon described in the visions of various prophets, and which forms the basis of the Golden Dawn Qabalistic instruction on the biblical fall of Adam and Eve. The instruction was traditionally spread through the knowledge given to the Practicus (Hod) and Philosophus (Netzach), and illustrated by two diagrams: Tree of Life before the Fall, and Tree of Life after the Fall. In the book of Isaiah, 27: 1, we find the first reference to the beast Leviathan, as a “crooked” and “piercing” serpent:

In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

In the book of Daniel, 7: 24, we also find a serpent or dragon, though seemingly of a different kind. There is an explicit reference to an eleventh horn:

As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.

Malkuth is the tenth sephira on the Tree of Life, and Da’ath, Knowledge, is counted as the eleventh. There are eleven dukes of Edom listed in the book of Genesis, 36: 31–43. The Edomites are both a historical and a mythical culture, of great antiquity. They are esoterically supposed to be an elder race, that preexisted man. Traditionally, they are Lords of Chaos and are likened to the heads of the risen red dragon after Adam fell and Malkuth was fatally linked to the world of shells (matter). The word translated as “kingdom” in the book of Daniel is the Aramaic “Malkuth”.

There are various Qabalistic arrangements. Malkuth has in itself ten sephiroth, three above and seven below—the palaces of the Qliphoth or Shells. Seven palaces (or crowns or horns) may also be formed from compounding the supernal triad into one, and Malkuth and Yesod into one. In the book of Daniel, 2: 42, we find:

The toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

The esoteric interpretation of the dream of Daniel concerning Nebuchadnezzar is that the two feet, each with five toes, symbolise a dual projection in consciousness from the Holy Guardian Angel. The vision describes the feet as part of clay and part of iron—the weak force and the strong force, the personal will and the divine or “unconquered” will of the shining Angel (augoedes). Clay is the body of Adam, the ‘man of blood’, while iron is the base metal that may be transmuted into gold when the Sun is in the sign of Scorpio—since the energy of Mars is required in the operation. The duality also expresses the upright and averse pentagrams which, when added to their unity (or the point in the centre), compose the elevenfold star of the Thelemic initiation path.

The Revelation of St. John

Death on a pale white horse, William Blake, 1880

We find three references to a ten-horned beast in the book of St. John’s Revelation; in Revelation 12: 3, 13: 1 and 17: 6:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads.

Then I saw a beast with ten horns and seven heads rising out of the sea. There were ten royal crowns on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

And the ten horns and the beast that you saw will hate the prostitute. They will leave her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

The latter verse, 17: 6, is echoed in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 43:

Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.

Understood as an allegory, St. John’s Revelation tells of the Scarlet Woman’s initiatory trial and death, marriage to her Holy Guardian Angel (as bride of Christ or Logos) and subsequent transfiguration into the heavenly Jerusalem or body of Nuit. Malkuth is thus ‘saved’, redeemed or raised from her captivation in the material world of shells—freed from the fetters that bind her to the coils of the Qliphoth or fragmented atomic universe. The ‘prostitute’ Babalon or Scarlet Woman is the soul of the Initiate. So far as the ‘sinful’ nature of the Scarlet Woman is concerned, it is interesting to note that in Hebrew the word “sin” actually means “thorn” and “clay”. Thorny plants such as the acacia or rose symbolise the horns of the crescent moon. The moon itself, like the clay shaped by the hands of the divine potter, is a symbol of the body and the natural soul. Liber AL vel Legis, I: 16, describes the Scarlet Woman as being “a moon”; as a moon, she is containment and receptivity, as well as the division into parts of cyclical, phasic existence. She is the placenta feeding the magical embryo or Khabs. The nuptial feast that follows the hour of doom of the Scarlet Woman is a celebration of the soul’s victory over death and world illusion, of her union with the eternal.

Transmutation of the Qliphoth

We repeatedly encounter the dual symbolism of the piercing thorn and the clay or flesh of the mortal body of Adam. The initiated doctrine of the Qliphoth, however, instructs us that the piercing nature of the dragon’s horn is required to ascend the Tree of Life. ‘Aspiration’ cannot be merely wishful thinking. Neither can we dream our way to the summit with symbol and metaphor alone. There is no ritual or secret formula that will raise inert matter to life and movement unless the exorcist is Hadit, the magical force itself. The enginery of the universe therefore plays a vital part in the initiation of the candidate. Hadit, the Serpent of Knowledge, declares his nature in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 7:

I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.

Note that the verse, II: 7, may symbolise “27”, the path of the magical energy of the flaming mouth of Apophis, imaged forth by the Tarot trump The Tower XVI. When the beast arises from the pit, he will bring down fire from heaven—the magical serpent will also bring plague and poisons to test the soul. The serpent, as Hadit, is the magician as well as the exorcist, for his motion gives rise to phenomena. The Logos or word of God manifests as the Chaos Beast, or impersonal generative and binding force of Leviathan, below the Abyss. The path requires that the intellect is kept sharp. The virtue of Malkuth is Discrimination, the vice, Inertia. The single horn of the unicorn is an apt symbol for a keen mind, aspiration to further knowledge, and the single-pointed meditation of yoga practice.

The task of all aspirants is to follow the word (Thelema) back to its source with the infinite. However, the means of so doing is not tenfold, but elevenfold, as hinted at in the book of Daniel (7: 24). Aspirants to the Silver Star are men; brothers of the Silver Star are women, metaphorically speaking. The supernal sephiroth cannot be penetrated from below, as there is a flaming sword placed to guard the way of Eden or Binah. The book of Daniel describes how the eleventh horn has “subdued” the three horns, that is, the supernal sephiroth—by cutting them off, which is of the nature of an eclipse. The science of man concentrates a false crown in Da’ath, which men revere and worship, for it is made in their likeness. This is the “image” of the beast, or “second beast” described in the book of Revelation (13: 11—18). The word can only be a symbol, not the thing itself; it is a mirror, as is man’s consciousness.

The relationship between Malkuth and Geburah, the 5th sephira, is a close one, as we learn from the Siphra Dzenioutha, the Qabalistic source work in these matters. Leviathan exacts severe “judgements”, or karma. By this, we can glean an insight into the true nature of such a beast. The idea of a universe made of unbalanced forces seeking completion through bonding with other unbalanced forces lies at the basis of the Qabalistic doctrine of the Qliphoth or “shells”. The shells, which by analogy with atomic theory are as the valence shell of the atom, are drawn together by their tendency to seek stability through mutual exchanges of energy. Assembled by atomic bonding, the Qliphoth form the body of the great dragon called Leviathan in the Old Testament. The body of Leviathan is mutable and polymorphic; the units forming it are forever decaying while their dispersed elements are ‘recycled’ to assemble as new forms. The body of Leviathan is an image not only of the mutability of the physical universe but also of human souls who, incomplete by nature, seek stability through union with other unbalanced forces.

The purpose of the Great Work (therefore) is to transmute by the power of magick the Qliphoth or unbalanced forces of the universe from their incompleteness by uniting them to that which is fixed or constant, as opposed to that which is transient and perishable. “Love under will”, on the other hand, is a magical art of universal application. The love or bonding capacity of the unbalanced forces is not merely suppressed in the hope of attaining something better, but is directed by the Thelemic 93 Current or True Will towards Nuit consciousness.

The 11th horn arising in the midst of the ten as recounted in the vision of Daniel may be understood as the (man-made) aspirational Pyramid of the Oath of the Probationer. The Pyramid is encountered in various forms throughout the Outer Order or Golden Dawn. The penetrating horn of (personal) will and intellect is required to ascend the planes, until this is halted at Da’ath. After that, the horn of the dragon must become concave. “Storming the mountain” doesn’t work any more; the Babe in the Egg of Blue germinates in darkness and mystery.

The Black Brothers (whether scientists or theologians) that are described in Aleister Crowley’s Enochian magick workings, The Vision and the Voice, concentrate a false crown in Da’ath and worship it, since it is the image of themselves. The ‘Antichrist’, on the other hand, a term frequently applied to the magical beast of Revelation, 666, is a somewhat loaded term. It confuses the function of the beast of Revelation—which is a cosmic one, an entirely impersonal force. It also confuses the function of Christ by an assignment of arbitrary values. If we consider that the Christ of the Gnostics is called ABERAMENTHO—“Like unto Ra-Menthu”—then we must conclude that the Nazarene was, to the Gnostics at least, identical to Ankh af-na-khonsu that stands before Menthu on the Stele of Revealing. Menthu is the form of Horus revered by the cult of the prophet Ankh af-na-khonsu at Thebes,and is in fact a name of Set-Typhon, as the destructive heat and fire of the Sun. The Stele of Revealing shows clearly that the Theban cult was an oracular one centred on the Fire Snake—for the Pythoness was the only truly prophetic ‘beast of revelation’. Thelema is indeed a Draconic cult of the stars, once the Osirian (viz., patriarchal) interpretative bias on the mysteries is abolished.

Multiplying ten by eleven yields 110, a number of BABALON and the manifestation of magick, the knowledge of Da’ath. The number 110 is also that of ChBQ, “to embrace, understand, grasp”, and DMIVN, “resemblance, likeness or imagination”. Furthermore, 110 is the number of OLI “higher, uppermost”, OIL, “heaven, the height”, and TzII, “desert or wilderness—a wild beast or desert creature”. The dark angel variously depicted as Typhon or Horus-Apep, the glittering image or augoedes, Heru-ra-ha, and Babalon triumphant (as Aima Elohim) express the unity of the whole Tree as ten sephiroth plus Da’ath—all the possibilities of the Tree, and all the faces of the Angel in one.


(1) The Egyptian Revival was first published privately in 1923.
(2) One might consider that it is the magician that needs to be turned upside down (as Odin or the Hanged Man of Tarot), not the Qabalistic Tree and paths.

The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga, Oliver St. John
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, Oliver St. John
The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites, Oliver St. John
The Equinox (esp. Temple of Solomon the King), Aleister Crowley
Kabbalah Unveiled, translated by MacGregor Mathers
Golden Dawn, “Microcosm” and “Macrocosm” lectures
Golden Dawn, Z1, Z2, Z3 Knowledge
The Egyptian Revival, Frater Achad
The book of Revelation of St. John the Divine
The King James Bible

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