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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/

Saturday, 21 October 2017

New Light on Stele 666

Ankh-af-na-khonsu shall go forth in the light, bearing the lamp and staff of Thelema among the living souls that dwell upon the earth.
New Light on Stele 666: Stele of Revealing
 The pharaoh Sety I and Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the priest and scribe of the Stele of Revealing, frequented the region of Upper Egypt extending from Thebes to Denderah and Abydos.[1] Ankh-af-na-khonsu was the opener of the doors of heaven at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes while Sety I built his temple at Abydos.[2] The scribe and the pharaoh lived in the late dynastic period. The prophets and sages of Egypt at that time foresaw the ending of their world, in which their secret knowledge would be lost and forgotten for millennia. Elsewhere, the biblical prophet Ezekiel was aflame with the vision of splendour. His visions also foretold of the doom and destruction of civilisations.[3] We have, perhaps, arrived at a comparable period in the history of human civilisation.

[This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.]
The Stele of Revealing is the funeral stone of a priest of the god Mentu, who lived and died during the 25th and 26th dynasties of Egypt. Theurgic activation of the funeral stone introduced Thelema to the world at the dawn of the twentieth century, albeit beneath a heavy veil. The frontside of the Stele shows an enthroned god and adoring priest under the nocturnal sky of Nuit and winged sun disk Hadit (or Heru Behedet). Mentu is the name of the enthroned god, usually named Ra-hoor-khuit. Mentu is a name of Set, and a special name of Ra as the sun’s heat at full strength. Herukhuti, Hrumachis, Hormaku (Sphinx of Egypt) and Ra-hoor-khuit are simply different spellings of the same name.

The ancient Egyptian mode of analogous thinking seems complex to the modern mind, accustomed as it is to so-called concrete facts and linear strategies. Mentu may be understood as simply a unified form of Horus and Set. The form of Mentu depicted on the Stele of Revealing combines the attributes of several Egyptian gods, as was customary with the neteru associated with important cult centres such as Thebes.[4]
Was-sceptre Egyptian hieroglyphic determinative
Thebes is derived from the Greek name for the place known to the Egyptians as Waset (or Uaset). It means ‘Place of the Sceptre’, and the was, which we call ‘sceptre’, is identical to the name and image of the god Set. Indeed, the was sceptres carried by all high-ranking priests were crowned by the likeness of the god Set. The sceptre was typically the length of the human spine and terminated in a two-pronged fork at the base. It is the symbol of dual manifestation. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn referred to the was as the ‘phoenix wand’, Creation of Life through the Initiation of Fire.[5]

Hormaku is the ‘God of the two horizons’, or ‘Horus in the sky’. The Sphinx of Egypt is the God of the Horizon as she points towards the place where the sun rises at the equinox or first point of Aries.[6] Thus, by precession of the equinoxes she now points towards the cusp of Aquarius or Nuit, The Star XVII of the Tarot trump.[7] The ‘future aeon’ referred to in Liber AL vel Legis, III: 57 as Hrumachis is not in the future but is here and now and for all eternity.

In 1904, Crowley employed the services of an Egyptologist to get the Stele translated then applied his poetic skills to render this in a manner that conveyed his magical ideas and understanding. His rendition is easy to memorise for ritual use.
I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veilèd sky,
The self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me! 
The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuit!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O wingèd snake of light Hadit!
Abide with me, Ra Hoor Khuit.
When the hieroglyphics are looked into closely, further depths of meaning may be plumbed. Crowley’s mantram begins, “Unity uttermost showed, I adore the might of thy breath”. The ancient Egyptians were not overly concerned with theological ‘unity’, for the gods are polymorphous and in nature all manifestation is dual. When manifestation is withdrawn it is understood as the circle of Nuit, or All. In Thelema this is traditionally formularised as 0 = 2 (Nuit and Hadit, the ubiquitous point in the circle). Something is certainly being ‘showed’ or revealed, and while it is not wrong to assume the Qabalistic Kether, the Crown (the god wears a solar crown), the Egyptian Akh conveys a subtler depth and range of meaning.[8]

The “might of thy breath” is a translation of tuf ur biu, which includes the plural of ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’. It is easy to follow Crowley’s line of thought, for in the Qabalah, breath, mind and spirit are interchangeable terms summed up as Ruach. Yet the Egyptian sense is of many souls or spirits. To further our understanding, we need to know something about the various parts of the soul. One valuable source is E.A. Wallis Budge’s introduction to his special 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead.[9] A further source, less well known but an astounding narrative in its own right, is Omm Sety’s Egypt.[10] It is only necessary here to summarise the key parts of the soul as described by Budge.

1. Khat—the physical body or ‘shell’; the corruptible and the perishable: Malkuth.

2. Ka—the double; an abstract form of the person that especially signifies the vital energy; the Ka dwells in the body or tomb, though under some circumstances it can wander about at will: Yesod.
3. Ba—the heart-soul, often depicted as a bird with a human face, most often dwells with the Ka and is able to assume a material or non-material form at will: Paroketh.
4. Ab—the heart (not the physical organ) or soul; it is also associated with intelligence (of the heart), especially intuition and analogous thinking: Tiphereth.
5. Khaibet—the ‘shadow’; like the Ka it may be nourished by offerings and can have an existence apart from the physical body: Malkuth and Yesod.
6. Khu—the spiritual soul, often depicted in the form of an Ibis and sometimes interchangeable with the notion of ‘a spirit’, as a “Soul which under no circumstances could die” (Budge). The Khu is cognate with the Judaeo Christian term, ‘Holy Guardian Angel’, which the Greeks called Augoeides or ‘shining one’: Binah and Neschemah.
7. Sekhem—‘power’, also vitality, though not that of the earthly Ka, as the Sekhem dwells in heaven with the Khus; the name of the Egyptian lion goddess Sekhet (or Sekhmet) is the feminine noun: Chokmah.
8. Ren—the ‘name’, which has spiritual and magical import for it is linked to the soul or spirit: Tiphereth.
9. Sahu—a spiritual body that springs forth from the material body and forms a habitation for the soul: Malkuth and Tiphereth.
The Khabs or ‘star’ of Da’ath is not listed by Budge but is nonetheless vital to our understanding of Thelema. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8–9, Aiwass declares:
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!
Budge did not describe the Akh (Malkuth and Kether). The Akh is named on the reverse side of the Stele of Revealing and forms the first syllable of the mantram derived by Crowley from the second stanza of his poetised translation.
AKH DUA
TUF UR BIU
BI A’A CHEFU
DUDU NERAF AN NETERU
An alternative translation of the second stanza might read as follows.
O how I have longed for thee to appear
In the splendour of thy shining rays.
Thou has set the wizened path
Before thy blessed souls—secret are the ways!
O thou, warrior at the gates of heaven,
To thee, to thee I give praise!
The ancient Egyptian language was such that the layers of possible meaning are practically infinite. For example, there is frequent repetition of a phrase for particular emphasis. There are puns—for the play-on-words was much loved by the Egyptians. There are etymological cross-references to actual earth locations known to the initiate and traveller. Tuf ur biu suggests, among other things, an ancient nome centre that housed a subterranean labyrinth, in the centre of which was a secret shrine to Horus.
In Omm Sety’s Egypt, the functions of the Akh are described in detail.[11] In Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary there are many meanings and functions for the noun and verb and, perhaps not surprisingly, they agree with those given by Sety.[12] Principally, the sense of Akh is ‘to soar, fly through the air (as a bird)’. It also has the meaning of ‘reaching out’, which is the gesture made by the priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu on the Stele of Revealing. Other spellings convey ‘fire’, ‘shining’, ‘radiance’, ‘spirit’. According to Sety, the key spiritual and magical function of the Akh is to unite the Ka, Ba and Khu so the Ka is then able to freely travel to any world, at will. 

On the third and lower portion of the Stele of Revealing the funerary oration of the priest of the Theban cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he is the son of Bes-na-mut, a priest with the same titles, and his mother Tanech, a musician for Amen-Ra. On the reverse of the Stele it is stated that his soul has passed through the gate of the west or western peak, known by the Egyptians as the passage to Amentet the land of the dead. Thus Ankh-af-na-khonsu may travel the worlds at will and even visit the earth. His name is after all that of the moon god or ‘Sky-Rider’, Khonsu. In standing before the sceptre-bearing Ra-Mentu as shown on the obverse of the Stele, the priestly prophet is as the moon shining forth with the sun’s reflected radiance. On the reverse side of the Stele, Ankh-af-na-khonsu declares he has joined his self to the earth even in death.
Do not speak against me in the presence of the Great Lord of the West: Although I have joined myself to the earth through the western gate of the sky may I endure upon the earth … Ankh-af-na-khonsu shall go forth in the light, bearing the lamp and staff of Thelema among the living souls that dwell upon the earth.[13]
In Omm Sety’s Egypt, the pharaoh Sety I also tells how upon death (in Thebes) he passed through the gate of the west.
During life the ba, akh and ka dwell always in the khat (physical body). As you well know, the akh may be freed by one who knows magic, and it can travel to distant places or even to Amenti. There are a few learned magicians who can also set the ka free during life, but this is not a good thing to do. If the ba leaves the khat, the khat will immediately die. After death, the ba, akh and ka are reunited in Amenti, but the ka may prefer to return and visit the earth. It is free to come and go at will, and this makes no difference to the reunited ba and akh, which have become as they were on earth. In Amenti there is no sickness or physical pain. But how terrible can be the pain of the heart. … I was at Thebes when I left this world, and I passed by way of Peak-of-the-West.
The tale of Dorothy Eady is no less improbable to the material scientist or rational thinker than is the reception of the Book of the Law in Cairo—in spite of Crowley’s efforts to make his account of it seem plausible. The account of Dorothy Eady is so detailed and factually accurate that even modern-day Egyptologists will not attempt to debunk it. Curiously, the Egyptologist Dorothy Eady was not only born in 1904 but was also mentored as a young girl by E.A. Wallis Budge.

The Akh may be used to travel about but it cannot do anything with physical matter because it is not of the (physical) body. Sety has explained how certain priests with knowledge of such things, having power of their Akh, may have planned to revisit the earth even in future times. In this way the pharaoh Sety I was able to visit Dorothy Eady (Omm Sety), and Ankh-af-na-khonsu and Aiwass, his mentor, were able to reveal the mysteries of the Theban gods of the Stele of Revealing to Rose Edith Kelly in Cairo, 1904.

Notes

1. Thus the House of Life (Denderah or Iunet), the House of Death (Abydos or Abdu) and the House of Ordinance (Thebes or Waset).
2. It was one of the official duties of Ankh-af-na-khonsu to literally open the doors that led out on to the roof of the Temple of Karnak, and so to the sky. At certain times of the year, for example the heliacal rising of Sirius, Egyptian priests would carry an ornate shrine housing a god on a lengthy procession that culminated on the roof of a temple. The shrine would then be placed so the god could observe the sun rising.
3. The Vision of Splendour is, by Qabalistic correspondence, the magical power of the 8th path of Hod on the Hermetic Tree of Life. The vision of Ezekiel is recorded in the book of Ezekiel, 1–26.
4. At the centre-right of the Stele is a priest of the god Mentu or Set. The enthroned god depicted at the centre-left is Mentu embodying the attributes of Ra, Horus, Set and Nekhebit or Khut-i (the serpent).
5. The phoenix—the Greek term for the Egyptian bennu or ‘soul of Aunnu’—is a bird (heron?), whereas the was is the image of Set. Creation of Life through the Initiation of Fire corresponds to the 19th path of Leo the Lion. See Crowley, 777, notes to column XLI lines 12 and 19.
6. The Sun enters the zodiacal sign of Aries around the 21st March in the northern hemisphere of the globe. The (twelve) zodiacal signs must not be confused with the constellations by which they are named.
7. The stars in Tarot trump The Star XVII have been variously described as the Pleiades, Venus and others, including Sirius. Nearly all decks show a naked goddess pouring water from a vase, which is the magical image of Aquarius, the Waters of Space. In Egypt, the annual inundation of the Nile was figured by the same image and identified with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the star of Set-Isis. Hence Kenneth Grant in his letters and writings referred to Set (or Saturn) as the ‘power behind Venus’.
8. The opening of the verse, Akh, is usually transliterated A KA in reference to the Stele. This method of transliteration renders the words in a way that is easier for the English tongue to manage but obscures much of the hieroglyphic sound and meaning. The ‘kh’ is identical to a Hebrew cheth or Greek chi, while the ‘a’ is similar in sound to the Hebrew ayin (A’a).
9. The 1923 edition of The Book of the Dead was republished in unabridged form by Arkana in 1985. Budge’s Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (Vols One and Two) covertly reveals ancient Egyptian non-numerical Qabalah.
10. Hanny el Zeini and Catherine Dees [St. Lynne’s Press].
11. Ibid.
12. Volume 1 pp. 135 [ibid].
13. The word for ‘will or desire’ (merrt-f) is also the verb ‘to love’. The word is therefore identical to Thelema (93), which is equal to Agape (93): Love is the law, love under will. See Budge, Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Vol II (pp. 309–10).
© Oliver St. John 2017, 2018
This is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.
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