There are Rituals of the Elements and Feasts of the Times

Book of the Law 2:10

Book of the Law 2:10

One of the most obscure aspects of the Book of the Law is its insistence on observing “the rituals of the elements and the feasts of the times” while providing only a vague idea of what is meant by the verse. On the surface the interpretation of these ‘holy days’, as they have come to be called (perhaps erroneously), seem to be very straightforward but when that surface is scratched a greater depth of potential meaning is apparent.

Book of the Law 2:11

Book of the Law 2:11

Modern Thelemite occultists have generally adopted the standard OTO liturgical calendar, or at least an abbreviated version of it, often without giving the issue much deep consideration. Of course the final interpretation of the Book of the Law is entirely personal and subjective and so none of these calendars represent an ‘official’ Thelemite list of feast days. Even Crowley was unusually evasive about the dates of some of these “feasts of the times” in his various commentaries to the Book of the Law (1912, 1921, 1923 & 1925).

Crowley’s Commentaries

In the ‘Old’ Comment to the Book of the Law (1912) he makes the cryptic statement- “A crescendo of ecstasy in the mere thought of performing these rituals; which are in preparation under the great guidance of V.V.V.V.V.”, implying that even eight years after receiving the Book of the Law from Aiwass he still had not nailed the dates down. Almost a decade later when he dictated his New Comment to the Book of the Law he had a much clearer idea about some of them, but certainly not about all of them.

“Each element — fire, earth, air, water, and Spirit — possesses its own Nature, Will, and Magical Formula. Each one may then have its appropriate ritual. In particular the entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of the elements at the Equinoxes and Solstices are suitable for festivals.”
-Aleister Crowley, The New Comment to Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law

The Short Comment

The Short Comment on the Book of the Law

This is still a very long way from ascribing selected dates to specific ‘festivals’ and even though they appear to be natural days for a celebration, the Equinoxes and Solstices are really no more than arbitrary choices that may, or may not, have an isomorphic correspondence. In this more lengthy exposition on Liber Al, Crowley does elaborate on all of the feasts that are listed and even sets definite dates for many of them but remains cryptically open on others. So, for instance, the “feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride” (vs 37) is set for 12 August as this was his wedding anniversary with Rose Kelly, his Scarlet Woman for the Cairo Working. At the same time, about the “feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet-secret, O Prophet!”, he only says; “This particular feast is of a character suited only to initiates”.

Perhaps Crowley’s most inspired interpretation of his Book of the Law was AL The Comment called D which he wrote while he was holed up in the Hotel Djérid in Tunis in 1923 after being deported from Italy. This comment was completed in autumn of this year at Nefta, largely under the influence of ethyl oxide, and was intended as a qaballistic examination of the Book of the Law. In it he refers to all of the rituals of the elements and the feasts of the times as a whole, saying;

“He begins by making a list of rituals and feasts; and in the course of this he works himself up into a state of rapture so that these rites at first clearly defined in order, gather force, wave upon wave, quicker and quicker, until at last he proclaims all times and places as proper for feasts.”
– Aleister Crowley, AL The Comment called D, (The Djeridensis Working)

Again, To Mega Therion leaves out any precise definition of these ‘holy days’, merely limiting himself to discussing the attitude that is proper to Thelemite celebrations generally and declaring that all times and places are suitable for such feasts. By his fourth, and final comment on the Book of the Law there was no mention of rituals or feasts to ponder over. Following his final injunction that “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself”, we find that for the nine feasts that are specifically mentioned in the Book of the Law (vs. 36-43) he only gives an exact date for three, connects two with common life events, gives an obscure explanation for one and makes general remarks about the remainder.

The Modern Thelemite Calendar and the Solar-Centric Perspective

The indeterminate nature of the majority of the dates of the feasts of the times and the general nature of the statement that there are rituals of the Elements has left the question of their interpretation open to the individual Thelemite to make for himself. The dates that can be precisely determined, like the feast for “the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law” all refer directly to, or celebrate the process that led to the reception of Liber Al. So, it is reasonable to accept Crowley’s determination of the feast for the Supreme Ritual being set on 20 March because that was the date that he performed the ceremony that was delivered to him by Rose (and which he performed only in order to show her how ineffective it would be).

Of course, since Crowley’s time there have been several generations of Thelemites and so, by necessity, there have been many more personal interpretations of the Book of the Law. A cursory examination of the list of feasts in the Second Chapter has led many people to make an isomorphic connection with the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year and to consider these feasts as representing a similar cyclic series of ritual celebrations but this is at best superficial and upon closer examination the evidence indicates that connecting the rituals of the Elements with the changing of the seasons is demonstrably an error.

earths seasonsThis basic misapprehension is based in the geocentric perspective that has governed our thinking for countless millennia and from which we are only just emerging in this new Aeon of Horus. Because it appears that the sun travels once around the circle of the zodiac every year it seems, from our Earthly point of view, that it returns to the place from which it began, creating a perfect circle that is naturally punctuated by the points at which the sun is either balanced on the meridian of its path or at one of the extremes of its path through the sky (that is, either the equinoxes or solstices). In temperate zones these periods roughly correspond to the regular seasonal changes and so they map into the Platonic Elements very neatly. The problem arises when you go outside of the very narrow temperate band where there is no seasonal correspondence with the Elements and the system loses much of its symbolic power.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, we have become aware in recent centuries that the Earth isn’t the center of the universe in any but the most conceptual manner and that, in fact, it has been going around the sun the whole time! This means that it has never been the sun that is moving across the sky but rather that it has been the movement of the Earth that has caused the illusion of the solstices and equinoxes. This concept is very important to Thelemites in particular and the reason has been succinctly stated by CS Jones:

CS Jones

CS Jones- Frater Achad

“You know how deeply we have always been impressed with the ideas of Sun-rise and Sun-set, and how our ancient brethren, seeing the Sun disappear at night and rise again in the morning, based their religious ideas in this one conception of a Dying and Re-arisen God. This is the central idea of the religion of the Old Æon, but we have left it behind us because although it seemed to be based on Nature (and Nature’s symbols are always true), yet we have outgrown this idea which is only apparently true in Nature. Since this great Ritual of Sacrifice and Death was conceived and perpetuated, we, through the observation of our men of science, have come to know that it is not the Sun which rises and sets, but the earth on which we live which revolves so that its shadow cuts us off from the sunlight during what we call night. The Sun does not die, as the ancients thought; it is always shining, always radiating Life and Life. Stop for a moment and get a clear conception of this Sun, how He is shining in the early morning, shining at mid-day, shining in the evening, and shining at night. Have you got this idea clearly in your minds? You have stepped out of the Old Æon and into the New.”
– Charles Stanfield Jones, Stepping Out of the Old Aeon and Into the New, The Equinox Vol. III, No. 1, pp. 183-4

sunriseClearly this sort of solar-centric perspective invalidates any circular representation of the procession of the Thelemite feasts because the sun never really returns to its original starting place in the sky. Even though it may appear to return to the first degree of Aries at the March Equinox, the entire universe has moved and our star is in a vastly different position in relation to its neighbors than it was 365 days earlier. The contemporary Thelemite perspective, based on the facts of astronomy, recognizes that time progresses in a succession of unique and individual moments that can never truly be revisited and so it seems most reasonable for the Thelemite feasts to reflect this new spiritual perspective.

In fact, there is nothing in the text of the Book of the Law that indicates in any concrete terms that these feasts are actually recurring celebrations. On the contrary, even Crowley considered at least four of them to mark special ‘times’ in individual lives like birth and death. Viewed in this light there is only the smallest amount of evidence to indicate that the feasts of the times coincide with any sort of liturgical calendar at all and, as Crowley says, all times and places are proper to the celebration of a Thelemite feast.

Rituals and Feasts

last supper

The Last Supper- a Feast of the Times?

All of this strongly implies that, as with the rest of the message of the Book of the Law, the interpretation of the “rituals of the elements and the feasts of the times” is to be left open to individual Thelemites to decide for themselves. To do that we need to start from the beginning point of defining the terms that have been used. The words chosen by Aiwass to express the Book of the Law can be taken as having been chosen to convey certain and specific concepts and so the weight of interpreting the verses most naturally falls on why those exact words have been used, and what their exact definition is expressing in the context of the text.

Book of the Law 2:1

Book of the Law 2:1

The words that have the greatest potential to admit variations in interpretation in the Second Chapter, verse 36, are ‘rituals’, ‘feasts’ and ‘times’. It can be safely assumed that the elements that are referred to are the standard Platonic set of Fire, Water, Air and Earth (with the modern addition of the convergent Spirit) rather than to the Chinese equivalents or the elements of the periodic table. So, what exactly is meant by rituals and feasts?

Book of the Law 2:2

Book of the Law 2:2

Once again Crowley is vague and makes a very general remark in his New Comment that “the difference between ‘rituals’ and ‘feasts’ is this: by the one a particular form of energy is generated, while there is a general discharge of one’s superfluous force in the other. Yet a feast implies periodical nourishment”. Broadly speaking, this is an accurate appraisal for very general purposes but it doesn’t go a long way towards helping to define specifically what was intended by Aiwass in the verse. No doubt, the intended interpretation draws heavily on Crowley’s own subconscious correlations for rituals and feasts and so it is reasonable to connect the rituals of the elements to the Golden Dawn practices that had had a profound effect on him.

As Crowley would have been very consciously aware, the word ritual derives directly from the Latin ritualis; relating to religious rites and has come to mean a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order (OED). This definition implies that it indicates some operation that is intended to be repeated, or at least performed consistently according to the same pattern as distinct from a ceremony (from the Latin caerimonia, holiness, sacredness, awe and which was, until the 14th century, an obscure term rarely used) which may be a unique performance for a formal religious or public occasion, especially one celebrating a particular event, achievement, or anniversary (OED). The word ritual implies a form of religious worship but in the context of Thelema, with its shift in focus from making propriation to some god, to working incrementally towards the Theurgic goal of realizing the divinity of the self, the real implication is that the rituals of the elements are operations of magick.

“Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright.
I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.
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.
Who worshipped Heru-pa-kraath have worshipped me; ill, for I am the worshipper.”
Aleister Crowley, Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law (Second Chapter, verses 36-43)

Golden Dawn Elements in The Book of the Law

GD Cipher Folio_09

GD Cipher Document- Elements

The nature of the Elements in a Thelemite/Hermetic context must define the purpose of the rituals that employ them and offer some insight into their possible objective. The strong influence of Golden Dawn qabalah on the text of Liber Al indicates that the interpretation of the nature of these Elements draws heavily on the manner in which they were presented (i.e. to Crowley) by that Hermetic order. In the Golden Dawn schema of qabalah the four Platonic Elements correspond to the tenth Sephirah Malkuth and are found in their manifest form only in the World of Assiah. Although the higher Sephiroth have their own Elemental correspondences, these are largely conceptual because the complete set of four Elements can only exist in their correctly balanced state on the lowest Light of the Tree of Life.

In other words, no Element can exist in isolation- there cannot be any Air, or Fire, or Water, unless there is a foundation of the material Element of Earth to support their existence. As they represent our sensual interpretation of our universe, the Elements are obviously microcosmic properties and have only a weak, isomorphic correlation to macrocosmic, or environmental influences. This implies that the “rituals of the elements” are methods for self realization rather than operations of religious worship. This interpretation ties in very neatly with Crowley’s own method of self realization, initiatory ceremonial magick. In fact, the incremental elemental initiatory structure of the Golden Dawn was itself a significant factor in the genesis of the Book of the Law.

To understand this integral connection, it is necessary to look at the important steps that led to Crowley being properly prepared to receive the Book of the Law in Cairo in 1904. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded on the basis of a series of documents containing initiation ceremonies and instructions in Hermetic magick that were discovered in London in the 1880s. These documents were purported to be the instructions that were given to aspirants in the outer order of an ancient, and secret society of initiates based on the Continent, and on this basis a temple was established at 17 Fitzroy Street, London on 1 March 1888.

In a very short time (the temple was active for only eight years) over 300 people had progressed through the elementary outer order grades and were waiting for the leaders of the Golden Dawn to provide them with further instruction. Unfortunately, the inner order adepts of the Golden Dawn had lost contact with the European order and the next step in the initiatory process had never been communicated. Samuel Lidell MacGregor-Mathers, the head of the Golden Dawn, had promised to contact the ‘secret chiefs’ of the order to obtain the more advanced instructions and, having failed to do that, had produced his own set of instructions for the first of the higher grades. This development was largely seen as a stop-gap at best, and, at worst, as fraud and within a few years the Golden Dawn had split.

Mathers had been Crowley’s mentor in magick and the young magician had complete faith in the possibility of his teacher contacting these hidden masters. It seems likely that Crowley would have made the attempt to contact them himself, especially after the schism of 1900 that divided the Golden Dawn, resulting in Crowley’s ejection from the order. In fact, his excommunication made it imperative that he make some sort of connection with these ‘secret chiefs’ if he were to continue to progress on the path of initiation that he had embarked on in 1898. And he wouldn’t have been alone in these sorts of efforts. So it is really no surprise that these efforts should eventually produce a result.

stele_of_revealing“March 20th. The invocation was a startling success. I was told that “The Equinox of the Gods had come”; that is, that a new epoch had begun. I was to formulate a link between the solarspiritual force and mankind. Various considerations showed me that the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order (that is, of the A\ A\ whose First and Second Orders were known as G\ D\ and R.R. et A.C. respectively) had sent a messenger to confer upon me the position which Mathers had forfeited. I made it a condition that I should attain Samadhi; that is, that I should receive a degree of illumination, in default of which it would be presumptuous to put myself forward.”

“…charged by the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order with a mission of such importance that the last event in the world’s history of importance, even approaching it, was Mohammed’s…”

“I wrote a formal letter to Mathers informing him that the Secret Chiefs had appointed me visible head of the Order, and declared a new Magical Formula. I did not expect or receive an answer.”
Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Chapter 49

Initially, at least, Crowley connected the Book of the Law entirely with his Golden Dawn experience and it was only later that he saw it as the basis for a new magickal order (which, incidentally, absorbed the two outer orders of the Golden Dawn into its structure in their entirety). So it is not surprising that the symbolism employed in the language used by Aiwass drew heavily on the symbol structure that Crowley had spent six years building into his subconscious with the Golden Dawn methods of initiation and it follows that the “rituals of the elements” should refer to the four Neophyte grade ceremonies (and their derivative rituals) of that order. In this light, the basis for making a connection between the “rituals of the Elements” and a cyclic liturgical calendar is very weak.

Hermetic Ritual

The Hermetic influence on Thelema colors the definition of many of its basic concepts. The connection between religious communion and ritual has been indoctrinated pervasively into the Western psyche but it has not always been the case. The original intention of the Roman ritualis was to maintain the pax deorum, a peace or covenant with the gods. This concept resonates with the spirit of Thelema very closely as its objective is create a balance Nu and Hadit (or Nuit and Had) in the consciousness of the individual. The first reference to worship in the Book of the Law tells us that, “The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.

abrahadabra acrostic

Abrahadabra

Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!”(First Chapter, verses 8&9). As I said in A Comment on the Verses of the Book of the Law; “Nuit defines the parameters of spirit and of her interaction with each of us. Khabs, light, is in the Khu, the undying intelligence, or being, that in each of us so one is to look to the light within the essence of the self, in Hadit, to achieve union with Nuit.” This isn’t done by means of a ritual, as later Hadit directs us: “To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof!”(Second Chapter, verse 22). This connects worship with feasting as opposed to ritual.

“Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.”
“Worship me with fire & blood; worship me with swords & with spears.”
Aleister Crowley, Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law (Third Chapter, verses 9 & 11)

So then, what is the nature of ritual as it is expressed in the Book of the Law? The First Chapter, speaking with the voice of Nuit informs us that; “The key of the rituals is in the secret word which I have given unto him.” (First Chapter, verse 20). This ‘secret word’ is Abrahadabra, which Crowley had already amended to fit his qabalah. I have also noted that

“the key of the rituals, that is, of the elements or the four grades of initiation, is in the formula in the Second Chapter vs. 76. This word has been given to him, which means either to Crowley or to the Child of the Beast who will interpret it.” (DG Mattichak Jr- A Comment on the Verses of the Book of the Law). In fact it is the conflation of these two aspects that reveals the intention of the magick formula of Abrahadabra.

Nuit also tells us that “the rituals shall be half known and half concealed” (First Chapter, verse 34), implying that some part of “the rituals of the elements” is already familiar or explicitly revealed in the text of the Book of the Law, or both. The connection with the Golden Dawn system of magick is strengthened when Nuit states; “Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs.” (First Chapter, verse 49), essentially repealing all rites of religious worship, initiation and established systems of symbols, instructing her ‘prophet’ to purge them of their inconsistencies while warning us that “if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!” (First Chapter, verse 52). It is only after Nuit has defined the rituals of Thelema in this way that Hadit outlines their structure in the Second Chapter and so it is reasonable to assume that everything that we can know about them is presented to us in these verses.

From this we can ascertain that the implicit intention of the rituals is to raise the conscious awareness of the individual divinity of the Thelemite, their awareness of being a god. These rituals are already partly known and partly encoded into the Book of the Law, and while they are intended to replace the practices of the old Aeon, this is not necessarily on a pro rata basis. Finally, they are to performed with joy and beauty and ever unto Nuit. They are to be expressions of our True Will. In other words, we are to devise the ritual by which we come to be aware of our individual elemental existence.

The Rosy Cross

The GD Rose Cross

This is reflects the depth of the elemental correspondences that were built into the Golden Dawn system of magick that Crowley had learned. It liberates man from the need to have a cleric represent him to his deity and makes each of us responsible for our own spiritual development and this philosophy reaches its fullest expression in Thelema. The ritual of the Aeon of Horus is focused on the age old Hermetic goals of Theurgy and Gnosis. This implies that “the rituals of the Elements” are relevant in time only to the individual who is progressing through those degrees of self awareness. While every Thelemite may find some individual justification for celebrating the seasons with some sort of ritual, there is none specifically coded into Liber Al.

The Tricky Timing of Feasts

The ‘feasts of the times’ is very suggestive of some sort of cyclic, or recurring liturgical calendar but even Crowley didn’t connect some of the named feasts with any sort of annual celebration. He described a feast as the discharge of superfluous energy, whilst it also simultaneously “implies periodic nourishment”. In a general way this is so, as the word feast can be taken to mean a large meal, typically a celebratory one, as well as an annual religious celebration (OED). This interpretation came into English just about 1,000 years ago from the Old French word feste (fete in modern French) which itself derives from the Latin word festus, meaning festive, joyful, merry, which is related to feriae- holiday and fanum- temple. The original intention of the Christian feast days was to differentiate them from holy days of fasting and the idea derives from the Roman days called feria, or free days.

Rose Kelly

Rose Kelly- Mrs Aleister Crowley

In this way the etymology indicates that the “feasts of the times” are celebrated on days set aside to mark specific events with food and entertainments. Some of these feast days, as noted above, are clearly defined by the text. A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride explicitly infers that the 12 August, the wedding anniversary of Aleister and Rose Crowley is a holy day in the Thelemite calendar, but, as Crowley was married more than once this may still be only an arbitrary date as is evidenced by Crowley’s belief that he had ‘conceived’ his ‘magical child’ with Jeanne Foster (Soror Hilarion). The Book of the Law also infers that there will be more than one Thelemite prophet and so this feats may evolve at a later date to mark days set aside to celebrate the marriage of more than one couple.

A feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law is the only one of the listed celebrations that is indisputably linked to specific dates, 8-10 April. Almost as certain are the feasts for the Supreme Ritual and for the Equinox of the Gods, which are strongly associated with 20 March, marking the anniversary of the performance of the initial ritual that precipitated Crowley’s connection with Aiwass that resulted in the dictation of the Book of the Law. The feast to mark the Equinox of the Gods may also take in 21 March as the Equinox in 1904 was at 12:58am GMT on that date and the successful performance of the Supreme Ritual took place at 10pm on the previous day, implying that the correct time of day for this particular feast may be from dusk on 20 March until dawn on the 21st.

thoth

Tahuti

The final cryptically defined feast is for Tahuti and the child of the beast which Crowley neatly avoids describing in any of his commentaries on the Book of the Law by indicating that it has a secret nature that can be divulged only to initiates (exactly who these initiates are, and what they have been initiated into, are never specified). The wording of the verse leaves it open to alternate interpretations (as is common throughout the text):
39. A feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet-secret, O Prophet!
While the verse may indicate that the feast itself should remain secret it may also be interpreted to mean that the child of the Prophet is the secret. There are two entities in the Book of the Law that are referred to as a “child”- one is the child god Hoor Paar Kraat, the small god that resides within the silence of the individual, and the other is the ‘child of thy bowels’ who Crowley at one time believed to be Charles Stanfield Jones. How that child is connected to Tahuti is unclear.

O Thou, the Apex of the Plane,
With Ibis head and wings of Night! Whose serpents strain
Their bodies, bounding the Beyond
Thou in the Light and in the Night
Art One, above their moving might.
Aleister Crowley, Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos

The Thelemite interpretation of Tahuti is as the general divinity of magick and appeared to Crowley in the more generic form of Thoth on 17 March in the lead up of the events that culminated in the reception of the Book of the Law and later Crowley included this godform as one of the presiding divinities in the Pyramidos ceremony of initiation, symbolizing the motive force of True Will that is exposed by initiation. This interpretation, of this feast celebrating the initiation of the individual into the mysteries, implies that this date may be best placed on 18 November to celebrate Crowley’s original admission into the Neophyte Grade of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898, the date upon which the prophet was first exposed to his own True Will and which led ultimately to the reception of the Book of the Law.

A feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death!
Aleister Crowley, Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law (Second Chapter, verse 41)

Wish You Were Here- FireThe remaining feasts are of a very generic nature, making them open to such a wide interpretation that they could mean almost anything. Crowley’s own interpretation of these feasts is puerile at best and exposes something of the limitations that he experienced when interpreting the verses of his book. On an explicit level, celebrating feasts for boy and girl children that correlate roughly to the conceptual gender polarity of fire and water provides some sort of explanation but the absence of the secondary Elements makes this a very vague, and unlikely interpretation. Additionally, the Elements Fire and Water traditionally correlate to the Father and the Mother rather than to the son and daughter that would fit more neatly with feasts intended to celebrate a child’s entry into adolescence by its parents.

pink floyd wish you were here waterThe final two feasts, celebrating life and death, are very long established social conventions that have endured across the aeons and, it would seem, will continue to do so for as long as humans are born to a temporal existence. At the same time, these two time honored occasions for celebrating feasts fall outside of any cyclical or liturgical calendar just as Crowley’s feasts to celebrate the coming of age of young adults would tend to fall on an individual’s birthday. Their inclusion of the feasts for Fire and Water in this verse does tend to support their interpretation as celebrations of milestones in life, although events like first initiation or marriage seem to be more fitting occasions for these celebrations.

Daily Occasion for Joy

The final two verses outlining the nature of the feasts of Thelema are the most general instructions of all and indicate that every day of life is to be celebrated with a feast honoring Hadit while every night should be celebrated with a feast for Nu. In his long comment Crowley once again hides in obscurity when he comes to interpreting these verses, giving a general explanation of them being the continual joy that results from ‘realizing Hadit’ when awake and ‘returning to the bosom of Nuit’ whilst asleep, hinting at some secret magical arcanum concealed from the uninitiated.

In the end, these wide interpretations of the Thelemite feasts perhaps come the closest to expressing the true nature of the philosophy of Thelema and, to a larger extent, override the specific feasts outlined in the previous verses simply because it makes them superfluous to the continuous active practice of Thelema generally. As the Thelemite continually attunes themselves to the performance of their True Will, each meal becomes an essential part of that True Will, making the act of eating a part of the greater ritual of initiation that is proceeding throughout the individual’s life and so it, like every other ritual in the life of a Thelemite, should be performed with joy & beauty.

Links :

http://hermetic.com/dionysos/litcal.htm

http://www.thelema101.com/calendar

References:

Aleister Crowley, Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law (esp. Second Chapter, verses 36-43)

Aleister Crowley, Liber Legis The Comment, The Equinox, Vol I, no. 7

Aleister Crowley, The New Comment to Liber Al vel Legis The Book of the Law

Stephen Skinner (ed), The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley, AL The Comment called D, (The Djeridensis Working)

Charles Stanfield Jones, Stepping Out of the Old Aeon and Into the New, The Equinox Vol. III, No. 1, pp. 183-4

Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley

H H Scullard, A History of the Roman World from 753 to 146 BC, Chapter XVIII

DG Mattichak Jr, A Comment on the Verses of the Book of the Law

Aleister Crowley, The Equinox of the Gods, The Equinox Vol III, No 3

Aleister Crowley, Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos

Posted in Ankh af na Khonsu, Magick, The Book of the Law, Thelema, Thelemite Holy Days | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing for Pyramidos

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Aleister Crowley’s A.’.A.’. is perhaps the most fully developed system of magick ever devised. Based on the model of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which Crowley had been a member for a short but influential period, the A.’.A.’. curriculum is a comprehensive set of instructions for developing the skills and experience of ceremonial magick. The graded structure of A.’.A.’. introduces the student incrementally to the fundamental practices of magick in a meaningful and achievable order with the goal of arming them with the skills necessary for composing and performing the central work of the A.’.A.’., the invocation of the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

Elementary Steps in Magick

When the A.’.A.’. was originally founded in 1908, the intention was to disseminate the instructional material to students as it became necessary for them to use it in their advancement. The internet has changed all of that and now anyone can download the entire set of A.’.A.’. books of instruction with the result that it is difficult for many new students to get a grasp on where they should start. Although the curriculum is explained in exact detail in the introductory material like Liber XIII vel Graduum Montis Abiegni, Liber Collegii Sancti sub figura CLXXXV and One Star in Sight, few students will be naturally drawn to these obscure books when they have a wealth of magick ceremonies to explore in the same series of books.

Elemental Grades of A.A.

The Elemental Grades of the Argentium Astrum

Even with a structured start to the practice of the A.’.A.’. system, the Probationer receives the broadest description of the study and practice that is required before he is eligible to work with the central ceremonial magick of the Elemental grades of the order, Ritual DCLXXI. For the student that is fortunate enough to have a dedicated teacher to guide them through the year of Probation, the path to their first initiation is a well laid out journey. For the rest, even the most assiduous student working in isolation will very likely not have prepared themselves to perform this essential ceremony because they will not know which studies to focus on and which skills to develop.

The Skill Set for Building Pyramids

He shall commit a chapter of Liber LXV to memory; and furthermore, he shall study the Publications of the A.’.A.’. in Class B, and apply himself to such practices of Scientific Illuminism as seemeth him good.- Liber Collegii Sancti sub figura CLXXXV

The fourth clause in the Oath of a Probationer directs the new student to study the basic literature from the fifteen titles in the Class B publications of the A.’.A.’. curriculum that outline fundamental practices like the pentagram and hexagram rituals, rising on the planes, training in mindfulness discipline as well as some basic Qabalah. Among this material is everything that a Probationer will need to learn in order to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to perform the ritual of first initiation as it appears in Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos.

3D-PyramidosWith guidance, any Probationer can expect to build their magical skill set within the prescribed period, but for a student of magick that has taken up A.’.A.’. in isolation there is very little to guide them to make the right choices to prepare for this pivotal step in the literature or the writings of Crowley.

Composing the Pyramidos Ritual

In 1906 Crowley composed a ceremony of initiation based upon the Neophyte Formula of the Golden dawn which which has come to be called the Throa תרעא Ritual, numbered 671 for the Gematric value of the letters of its name. תרעא means “gate” and refers to the passage of the gates of the Elements that forms the core of the Neophyte Ceremony. His aim was to simplify this fundamental rite and to make its performance more fluid.

In the time between his exit from the Golden Dawn in 1900 and the composition of Ritual 671, Crowley’s magical style developed the system that he had inherited from the Hermetic order into a more dramatic, poetic expression of the magician’s will. Several influences, from Buddhist techniques learned from Allan Bennett, concentration techniques borrowed from his mountaineering partner Oscar Eckenstein and his broad study of the classical literature of occultism, all contributed to the composition of Crowley’s initiation ceremony, Ritual 671. As the A.’.A.’. developed its curriculum, Crowley polished the תרעא Ritual into a potent and practical ceremony of self initiation given the nomenclature of Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos.

Although it was widely disseminated, Liber 671 was never published and remained an obscure and difficult to obtain text. Even the versions that have been made available are a sketch of the ritual with little or no instruction on how to perform it. At the same time, in Magick in Theory and Practice Crowley stresses the importance of using Ritual DCLXXI for a ceremony of first initiation as well as a pattern for composing ceremonies for other practical purposes like consecrating the Magick Weapons.

Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus

3D-Pyramidos-stackThe cryptic form of the text of Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos and the need for a solid grounding in the basics of ceremonial magick, including a fairly sound grasp of the Golden Dawn Neophyte Formula, makes it very unlikely that a novice that has downloaded the Pyramidos Ritual will have the ability to expand and perform it effectively. There are very specific areas of study that a Probationer can focus on to acquire the knowledge required to understand how to operate the Pyramidos and, in the case of Probationers that have a teacher, the novice magician is directed through them during their probationary period, or at least towards the end of it. For the isolated student, an introductory guide to the operation of the Pyramidos is needed to make it more accessible to beginners.

To address this I have written a comprehensive exploration of the seminal operation of ceremonial magick. Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus examines the provenance of this ceremony and gives an explanation of the intention of each of the steps in its performance. There is a detailed bibliography of literary influences on this central ceremony of the A.’.A.’. sysytem of magick and an outline of the work necessary for someone to prepare themselves to perform this ritual of self initiation. The book also includes the full Pyramidos Ritual as well as several of the ceremonies that influenced its composition. The Neophyte Formula of the Golden Dawn is also examined in detail to give the student a solid foundation upon which to base their understanding of this important ceremony from Crowley’s voluminous catalogue of magical instructions.

Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus includes 15 illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography of references that contributed to the composition of this dynamic ceremony of high magick art.

Pyramidos: Self Initiation in the Aeon of Horus is available now for $39.95 (plus postage and handling) from:

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Magick and Power

sigil_of_amethDifferent types of magick are often defined by the power that they are perceived to possess. While this makes the basic error of mistaking the source of their power and its method of expression, there is a kernel of truth in this type of differentiation between systems of magick. The key to the power of a system of magick is the number of truths that it is capable of expressing, rather than the types of methods that it employs.

The most vital aspect of any system of magick is the completeness and legibility of the symbol set at its foundation. For symbols to be effective as a medium for expressing the will of the magician the concepts that they are representing have to be able to be clearly understood. Systems that employ a limited set of symbols can only represent a limited number of truths while more comprehensive systems have greater powers of legibility and are capable of expressing a wider range of concepts.

Formal Systems and Magick

unicursal hexagram with anglesMost correctly, a formal system is any well defined system of abstract thought, often based on the principles of mathematics. Euclid’s geometry is a well known formal system, thought to be the first, that employs the characteristics of a specific language that uses a set of symbols, governed by rules of inference that determine its axioms. In the case of geometry, these axioms are the truths that govern the composition of shapes and the veracity of the axioms is determinable by simple, often mechanical means (such as measuring the congruence of lines and angles with a compass and straightedge to infer the congruence of similar shapes).

By this definition, magical systems could be classed as formal systems that use specific symbol sets employed by the principles of the specific discipline to represent their objectives. For instance, the magical system of the Goetia uses its catalogue of sigils as the focus of a standard practical operation to bring about very specific outcomes. The rules by which the veracity of the outcome is determined are the specific details of the practical operation of the grimior while the stated objectives and tangible results of the ceremonial performances are the axioms, or truths that it expresses.

Not All Magical Systems are Created Equal

Obviously, magical systems with a broad range of symbols will be able to postulate a greater range of objectives, but at the same time, no magical system can be complete. In any formal system it is necessary to step outside of the system in order to create a symbol that represents the system in its entirety, therefore no formal system is really capable of postulating axioms about itself on a holistic level and magical systems are no different.

BuerEven the most intricate, symbol rich magical systems, with the ability to express thousands of precise objectives, have no symbol for the system itself. This limits the power of the magical system to the level upon which its symbols operate and makes it impossible to direct the method towards the system itself. This means that the magical system cannot be directly applied to its own development, or to the extension of its symbol set, or it becomes a meta system with a correspondingly new limitation against self referential development- a completely new system that is really just an extension of the old one on a different scale of operation. It increases the complexity of the available symbols without increasing its power to express new truths.

Consistency of Symbol Sets

The real value of any system of operation is that it remains consistent. In 1900 the mathematician David Hilbert examined the question of consistency in formal mathematical systems and his second problem states that the function of a formal system for a science is to “set up a system of axioms which contains an exact and complete description of the relations subsisting between the elementary ideas of that science” with the objective of proving “that they are not contradictory, that is, that a definite number of logical steps based upon them can never lead to contradictory results”.

The same holds true for magick. The function of a formal magical system is to establish a system of achievable objectives using the relations subsisting between its elemental components that are attained by following a definite number of logical steps that never lead to contradictory results. In other words, a magical system only has any real power as long as repeating a practice continues to produce an identical result. For the results of a magical system to be deemed consistent their success, the system’s axiomatic statements, must be provable from within the system itself, using its symbol set to legibly demonstrate the successful result. That is, a result that derives its proof from outside of the parameters of the magickal operation cannot be attributed to it.

Magical Axioms and Tangible Results

In practical terms this means that firstly, there is no possibility of a complete system of magick simply because there is no system that has a single symbol to represent, or to operate on the system itself as a whole. Secondly, it indicates that the proof of the success of any magical operation is necessarily confined to a very narrow range of parameters that are defined by the set of symbols employed in it. Because no system of magick can express a complete set of axioms, there will always be results, or magical axioms, that cannot be defined in terms of its symbol set.

black massThis means that systems of equal power are interchangeable- there is no difference in the motive force, only in the method of applying it and the language used to express and evaluate it. Reducing the symbol set does not limit the power of a magical system, it merely reduces the number of axioms that it can represent and the language that is available to evaluate results. A simple example of this is in the most basic extension of the Elements as the signs of the Zodiac. An entirely Elemental system has four basic symbols to manipulate that cover very broad areas of governance, limiting the number of concepts that can be defined in detail to very general principles. Each of the Elements has three of the signs attributed to it, representing active, stable and changeable forms of the Element. Extending the system to the signs of the zodiac allows a greater range of legibility in expressing the objective of a specific operation to subsets of those very general areas of governance. The greater range of expression allows for a more precise evaluation of the tangible results.

High Magick and Low Magick?

The basic misunderstanding of the source of the power of a magical system leads to categorizing them under the very general banners of high and low magick. The term high magick is thought to have been coined by Kenneth Grant to differentiate between traditional, Qabalah based formal magical systems and the newly emerging practice of witchcraft. The common conception that a simple system of magick, like the use of spells and charms is somehow a lower form of magick than Hermetic based ceremonial forms like the Golden Dawn system of magick misses the point altogether. If the symbol set available for constructing simple spells is capable of expressing an equal number of objectives as a complex system of ceremonial magick then it is equal in power to, and interchangeable with it.

red-candles-wallpapers_6392_1600 (Copy)In practice this is rarely if ever the case and in fact most of the forms of magick that generally fall under the heading of low magick tend to be derivative and partial forms of more comprehensive magical systems. A good example of this is the popular practice of candle magick that first came to prominence in the 1970s via the popular works on practical magick of Raymond Buckland. In this simple system, candles are ascribed to planetary influences by their colors. The operational objectives of the operations of candle magick are expressed by the juxtaposition and movement of different colored candles to infer the rearrangement of the planetary forces in such a way as to represent the result. There are a set of rules that govern the consistency of these movements and of the handling of the candles in general, all of which combines into a moderately practical and simple, apparently stand alone magical system.

Closer inspection reveals that it is just a very narrow subset of the Elemental symbols used by more comprehensive Hermetic systems of magick. The standard planetary colors are those of the Queen Scale of colors from the Golden Dawn that is itself drawn from the very traditional sources of the works of Agrippa, Albertus Magnus and Plato. But the limitation of the symbol set of candle magic limits its ability to represent objectives legibly making it a much less powerful system than those from which it derives its symbol set. It isn’t that candle magick is any less powerful in operation than a more complex form of ceremonial magick; it just has much less legibility and precision.

Magick and the Real World

enochiantabletsAll of this implies that the more comprehensive a system is the more power that it will have, but this is only true to a point. While a well developed system of magick based on the symbol set of the Qabalah (like the Golden Dawn) will have an immensely greater range of expression than a book of simple spells like those in John Horner’s system in The Long Lost Friend, there is a critical mass at which a symbol set becomes too expansive to be practical for use. A huge system of magick like the Golden Dawn Enochian method of magick is on the edge of practical complexity simply because the number of possible variations of symbols available takes a long time and a lot of effort to grasp and employ legibly and accurately.

Eclectically combining small systems of magick into a conglomerate practice is also fraught with potential conflicts, rendering only the appearance of a comprehensive unity with any genuine cohesiveness. Even small inconsistencies of the correspondent meanings of individual symbols in the sets used by the various micro systems set up conflicts that degrade the legibility of the expressed intention. On the other hand, standardizing these correspondences doesn’t create a new comprehensive magical system; it merely delineates a subset of an existing comprehensive system. For instance, using the color correspondences from the Golden Dawn system to govern color symbolism across several micro systems of magick essentially makes them a partial component of the greater Golden Dawn whole, and probably not a very effective one.

Magick Old and New

This interpretation of the power of magical systems directly challenges the notion that ancient magick is somehow more efficacious. In effect, trying to return to some ancient form of magical practice (if such a thing is actually possible) discards a great deal of the development of the symbol set that has occurred through the evolution of modern esotericism. This is because modern occult symbols correspond to a modern world view that includes a deeper understanding of the universe and our place in it. At the same time, scraps of ancient magick and limited magical systems are of little value in comparison to comprehensive systems and are unlikely to work well in concert with one another.

Goetia frontpageThe objective of modern magick is also very different to ancient practices. Contemporary esoteric practices tend towards personal or spiritual development rather than material ends. Most of the powers that are ascribed to the spirits of the Lesser Key of Solomon, like flying through the air, or communicating at a distance, are no longer the concern of magick whereas Gnosis has become a central goal of Theurgic contemporary magical systems. In order for this to be achievable, the chosen magical system must have a symbol set that is able to represent the entire course of that spiritual development in a language that makes this traditionally mystical goal legible in a ceremonial form.

Setting Magical Goalposts

This does not mean that any one system is better than any other system, only that they operate on a different scale. Because there can be no complete, and consistent system of magick, they merely represent alternate symbol sets of varying sizes. Choosing the appropriate magical method isn’t about employing the most powerful one available, it is best determined by choosing the method that can express the objective with the greatest legibility.

If the overall goal of magick is to be material then the system best employed will use a symbol set that correlates to material objectives. If the overall goal of magick is Theurgic then the symbol set must extend from that material world to the Crown and beyond. In both instances the motive force that drives the magick does not derive from the power of the magical system but from the entropy of the magician himself.

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Evaluating Divinity in the Aeon of Horus

Isis the Star Goddess- A O SpareThe nature of divinity in the spiritual paradigm presented by the Book of the Law is one of the most fundamentally difficult concepts to grasp. The result is the unnecessary introduction of entities to the apprehension of the nature of the Aeon of Horus. While it may appear on the surface as though a small pantheon of divine personalities presents the Book of the Law, closer investigation reveals that these are three voices of a unified, but entirely subjective macrocosm.

Infinite space is called the goddess NUIT, while the infinitely small and atomic yet omnipresent point is called HADIT. These are unmanifest. One conjunction of these infinites is called RA-HOOR-KHUIT, a unity which includes and heads all things. (More correctly, HERU-RA-HA, to include HOOR-PAAR-KRAAT).- Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice

Complementary Nothings

Aleister Crowley - The Book Of The LawThe Book of the Law describes everything as existing between extremes of nothing. Nuit, the queen of space, represents the outward infinity of void while Hadit conceives of an infinitesimal and internal point, both having no objective manifest existence. On the one hand, the infinite void can only be postulated from a subjective and manifest perspective and on the other, the possibility of an indivisible central point to that material perspective can only be postulated theoretically as having a definite position yet without magnitude. This interpretation indicates that neither Nuit nor Hadit exists at all, representing the antithesis of existence itself.

With the God & the Adorer I am nothing: they do not see me. They are as upon the earth; I am Heaven, and there is no other God than me, and my lord Hadit.- The Book of the Law, First Chapter
In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found.- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 3

These voices in the Book of the Law define themselves in terms of their complements; the centre and the circumference. Nuit confirms the two-fold nature of this nothing, defining her nature as; “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union”. Even on the metaphysical plane, nothing divided by two is still nothing. For it to become something there must be a third, manifest perspective that is the complement of both extremes of nothing. As a parallel, the new perspective must also be the issue of that nothing- the something must derive from the nothing.

For I am perfect, being Not- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 15

The Opposite of Nothing

horusThe closest approximation of absolute nothing that is possible from a manifest perspective is the negative existence. This is really no more than a negation of material existence and the Qabalah expresses this void of positive being as Ain אין, NOT. Even this implies a positive perspective, but it also implies a handy complement, IS. The qualities of this positive expression must be entirely antithetical to the nothing from which it derives, it cannot be nothing, it must be something. It cannot be infinite either, as it is now characterized by its emergence into positive existence as having a definite position, even if the uniqueness of its existence makes that position impossible to place within the infinite nothing for lack of any existent and coequal points of positive existence relative to it.

We are accustomed to refer all individuals in nature to one genus which is called the most general, that is, to the notion of Being, which embraces absolutely all the individuals in nature.- Baruch Spinoza, Ethics IV pref., II: 207

The Book of the Law gives this conjunction of infinites the nomenclature of Heru-Ra-Ha, a reengineering of the name of the God Horus. This is the Unity of Kether כתר, the first Sephira on the Tree of Life that is the source of the myriad material forms. This general, overriding Oneness, by manifesting materially, has become a limited, definite concept that can be the source of only a limited number of sub-units over a finite temporal span. These limitations are imposed on the ultimate divine being by its necessary separation from the original nothing. Thus the creative force has the entirety of creation implicit within itself from the moment of its Becoming.

People argue that an Infinite intelligence must have been at work on this cosmos. I reply No! There is no intelligence at work worthy of the name. The Laws of Nature may be generalized in one – the Law of Inertia. Everything moves in the direction determined by the path of least resistance; species arise, develop, and die as their collective inertia determines; to this Law there is no exception but the doubtful one of freewill; the Law of Destiny itself is formally and really identical with it.- Aleister Crowley, Berashith

divider_hadit

Blasphemy Against All Gods of Men

 

This defines positive existence, Being, as an expression of force rather than of matter. The Holy Qabalah concurs with this definition, calling the initial emanation from the negative existence the Rashith HaGigilam הגלגליםראשית, the beginning of whirling. The overriding unity at the source of positive Being is defined as motion- in the beginning the manifest universe was set in motion and its development from that point onwards has been governed by its inertia. The Unity that is Horus is the current evolution of the motive force behind creation, a contemporary expression of the inertia of the material universe.

While the existence of Heru-Ra-Ha as “unity which includes and heads all things” fulfills the relative position of godhead as it is defined in the Qabalah, the finite limitation within a single identity creates a unity which has “a definite position yet without magnitude” that is equivalent to every other such point within the infinite void of NOT. On the most essential level, at their most central core, the God and Man are identical points of Hadit. At that level there is no difference, and so Ra-Hoor-Khuit is antithetical to traditional concepts of divinity.

Who worshipped Heru-pa-kraath have worshipped me; ill, for I am the worshipper.- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 8
I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.- The Book of the Law, Third Chapter, Verse 49

Modes of Positive Being

The difference between the Unity of Heru-Ra-Ha and that of the individual is a matter of scale, the amount of force that is being expressed. The universality of Horus makes it a macrocosmic force, one which is mirrored in the myriad of microcosmic forms, each of which is merely a veiled point of Hadit with a definite position in the void of Nuit (neither of which exist except conceptually as forms of NOT). This singularity of positive being itself suggests a binary potential- Being and Not Being as the definitive delineation of the possible modes of force. Material being is either moving or at rest.

In fact, just as the Unity of Heru-Ra-Ha is the product of union of complementary nothings (Nuit and Hadit) this potential for alternate modes of expressing its force, as either active or passive, creates the potential for the conceptual division of the Unity of Heru-Ra-Ha into active and passive aspects- Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-Paar-Kraat. In order for an active force to express itself manifestly, there must be a passive vehicle to receive its impression and to fulfill the inertia that it imparts.

In this way, the entire set of divine personas in the Book of the Law represents the different aspects of divinity that are unified in Horus. Nuit and Hadit are Horus when he was NOT. Heru-Ra-Ha is Horus at the point of emergence into Being and divides into the active and passive personas Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-Paar-Kraat as the potential implicit in its positive manifestation is expressed in matter. This is, in effect, the formula of Tetragrammaton.

Tetragrammaton and Thelema

The Four WorldsThis five-fold nature of Horus is very suggestive, and it is easy to make the mistake of mapping the microcosmic perspective into its interpretation. The parallels with Pentagrammaton יהשוה make it tempting to attribute Elemental correspondence to each of these divine personas, but of course this cannot be so as these Elements only exist on the microcosmic level. On the macrocosmic level, Nuit and Hadit have no positive influence, they are as nothing, and Horus presents as a Trinity that is a unity, perpetuating and confirming the spiritual evolution of the previous Aeon.

The development of the force of Horus into active and passive forms represents a paradigm shift from an essential archetypal positive existence to a creative expression of that positive existence. While this is still on an ideal and conceptual level; because there has as yet been no confinement of force to a definite form, it establishes the overall momentum of the motive force of Heru-Ra-Ha as a mirror of the union of complements that established the positive being initially. Similarly, the issue of this union reaches its fullest expression in the form where the last of its inertia is expended and movement is reduced to its minimum- in the matter of the macrocosm.

As above, so below; the lesser and greater; microcosm and macrocosm: they are the same. Following this principle, all things were made from the One.- Hermes Trismegistus, The Emerald Tablet

sign-of-silenceAt its core, every microcosmic existence is a defined point of Hadit within the infinite void of Nuit, and so each one is directly relative to and connected with the NOT. Between this negative existence, the Ideal Trinitarian existence that issues from it, and the microcosm, is the universe as we perceive it (not as it really is) that forms the World of Yetzirah. In this way, the cosmology of the Book of the Law establishes the divine influence throughout the Four Worlds and defines the method used by that divine force to manifest its influence as the microcosmic Tetragrammaton.

The Gods of Yetzirah

A number of gods are named in the text of the Book of the Law and this creates the impression that Thelema employs a pantheon, however limited, of traditional deities. Closer examination shows that this is so only in a very narrow way. Apart from Nuit, Hadit and Horus the Book of the Law explicitly names a total of ten other divinities in its text. Six of these are from the Stele of Ankhafnakhosu and four are mentioned in the dictated texts.

Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs. Ra-Hoor-Khuit hath taken his seat in the East at the Equinox of the Gods; and let Asar be with Isa, who also are one. But they are not of me. Let Asar be the adorant, Isa the sufferer; Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating.- The Book of the Law, First Chapter

Asar and Isa are variant spellings for Osiris and Isis, the parents of the Child God Horus in the original Greco-Egyptian mythology. These are not of Horus, that is, they exist below the Ideal worlds of Atziluth and Briah, in the actual worlds of Yetzirah and, to a degree, Assiah. Asar is the worshipper, the Higher Self of the candidate for initiation (see the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ceremony) while Isa is the conceptual aspect of the microcosmic perception of spiritual growth, indicated by Hoor acting in the role of initiator.

Hrumachis, named as the Lord of the successive Aeon, is Horus of the Horizon and represents the evolved form that Heru-Ra-Ha assumes as the fulfillment of his own evolution- a symbol of the potential of the force that is labeled Horus. The final deity mentioned by name in the text of the Book of the Law is Tahuti- the expression of the Will of Horus, the Speech that is begotten in the Silence of the Ain Soph Aur, the voice of Heru-Ra-Ha.

Horus the ElderThe remainder of the deities involved with the Book of the Law appear in the Stele of Ankhafnakhonsu. Ra is already conflated with Horus, Mentu, Tum, Khephra, and Ahathoor are similes of ancient Egyptian gods that are unique to the Book of the Law and represent specific aspects of the all encompassing unity of Heru-Ra-Ha in the World of Yetzirah. Ra is the central focus of the microcosm’s Higher Self, the true vehicle for the point of Hadit at his center. Tum is the solar disk, an outward expression of Hadit while Khephera is the vehicle that provides the motive force to that solar disk of self awareness. Ahathoor a corruption of the Egyptian goddess Hathoor, meaning the House of Horus, represents the accommodating nature of physical existence with Hadit at its core. Finally, Khonsu is defined as the motive force of the priest that serves Ra-Hoor-Khuit. With only a small amount of imagination, the student of magick and Qabalah can discover a practical arrangement of attributions for each of these ten deities on the Tree of Life that correlates to their symbolic, Yetzirac qualities.

Mapping the Old Aeon into the New

This arrangement extends the influence of the divinity labeled Horus from its ultimate source in NOT to its manifest expression on the infinitesimal level of the individual microcosm- a truly all encompassing unity. This is a shift in the nature of the apprehension of divinity as a separate yet correspondent macrocosmic identity to a perspective that places divinity at the core of every created form. Unlike the worship based religious practice of the past Aeon, Thelema doesn’t seek to unite the microcosm with a separate macrocosm, but rather to make the microcosm aware of the macrocosmic element at its core as its purest and most perfect Self. For a Thelemite the ultimate spiritual goal is not to be reunited with the source but rather to indentify that source within themselves by becoming the perfect vehicle for its fulfillment.

Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.
Get the stele of revealing itself; set it in thy secret temple-and that temple is already aright disposed-& it shall be your Kiblah for ever. It shall not fade, but miraculous colour shall come back to it day after day. Close it in locked glass for a proof to the world.- The Book of the Law, Third Chapter, Verses 9 & 10

stele_of_revealingThis theurgic goal in itself indicates that Thelema is unsuitable as a form of religious worship. There is no need for the divine Self to petition the gods for redemption from temporal existence, it is already immortal. This alters the nature of the temple in the Aeon of Horus from a place of worship to a Hall of initiation. The method of identification with Horus is not as a passive vessel for his invoked force, it is the active assumption of his divine persona. The difference is a subtle but important distinction between the methods of the old Aeon and the new.

The method of the past Aeon was to prepare the aspirant as a fitting vehicle for divinity by purging him of attachment to material existence to refine his consciousness sufficiently to act as a vehicle for an invoked, externalized divinity. In the new Aeon, the process is opposite and the aspirant penetrates the layers of his own awareness to reveal the divine spark that can only be fully manifest in the World of Matter, Assiah. Denial of material existence is anathema to achieving Hadit.

There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 27

The misunderstanding of these principles results in deviating from the essential tenet of Thelema that the primary motive force of creation is Will. Even the most potent gods cannot alter the established inertia of creation and so it is pointless to petition them for redemption with ceremonies of worship. Positing Nuit as an archetypal mother goddess who unites with her consort Hadit to produce the fertility of the Earth as the basis for a ceremony of worship is a redundant concept, as every atom of positive existence is the result of this union already having taken place. This sets Thelema apart from modern Neo-Pagan religions entirely, and attempting to map the divine personas of the Book of the Law into these sort of reconstructed practices fails to recognize the true nature of divinity as it is expressed in the Thelemite paradigm. Invoking Nuit and Hadit negates matter by transcending positive existence and denying the unity of Being, instead of recognizing it as a vital part of the overriding unity of Heru-Ra-Ha.

Uniting Nuit with Hadit (or vice versa) is akin to adding zero to zero- the sum result is still zero. In fact, Crowley’s own methods suggest that uniting these polar principles of NOT cannot be achieved. Instead, they represent complementary perspectives from which the magician may perceive the non-positive states symbolized by the infinite without and the infinite within. That is, in order for the magician to perceive Nuit he becomes Hadit, while the perception of Hadit is achieved by assuming the perspective of Nuit.

1. Worship, i.e., identify thyself with, the Khabs, the secret Light within the Heart. Within this, again, unextended is Hadit.- Liber Nu sub figura XI
1. Worship, i.e., identify thyself with, Nuit, as a lambent flame of blue, all-touching, all-penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, and her lithe body arched for love, and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers, even as She is imaged in the Stélé of Revealing.- Liber Had sub figura DLV

Obviously the objective of these practices is not to unite the personas of Nuit and Hadit but rather to shift the magician’s perspective entirely to one of these poles of attention, each representing an equal and opposite form of nothing. In other words, to perceive either form of NOT requires assuming the perspective of its complementary extremity. Assuming that these two polar opposites can be united within the magician by invoking them to coexist within him ignores the fact that, as he is already existing as a positive expression of Being, this union is already existent. It also ignores the impossibility of that positive existence being able to occupy these two polar perspectives simultaneously- the unity of the individual cannot be divided between “within’ and “without” or it loses its quality of being singular.

Solitary Enlightenment

walking across the desertThelema is the cult of self. Just as the spiritual practice of Thelema departs from the redundant concept of uniting the microcosm with a separate and outward macrocosm, and the ceremonial celebration of the union of bi-polar forces of nature, it also eliminates the concept of organized group worship. Heru-Ra-Ha is a finite spiritual force, and so that macrocosmic Unity is counterpoint to the finite microcosmic unity implicit in every point of positive creation- the God and the Man form contemporaneous instances of Hadit. In order for the aspirant to realize the Unity of Horus it is only necessary to realize his own divinity that is equal and opposite to that of Heru-Ra-Ha.

Every man and every woman is a star.- The Book of the Law, First Chapter

Obviously, this is an entirely individual effort as no two individual points of Hadit can coincide in space and time in the World of Assiah. This makes every individual entirely responsible for their own spiritual development. The new perspective that this admits challenges the currently accepted precepts of established religious and initiatory practices. In the Aeon of Horus the spiritual method of receiving the divine influence by proxy via the ministrations of a clerical agency like a priest or priestess is redundant.

The formula of the new Aeon, Do What Thou Wilt, demands that every individual instance of positive existence should focus on executing only their own will, the only domain over which it is possible for the microcosm to exercise any genuine influence. The priest of Horus cannot dispense the influence of the deity to others; he can only realize the existence of that divinity within himself. Similarly, no man, no matter how spiritually enlightened, can divine the True Will of another, and so the basis of the Hierophant’s power of initiation is also a redundant concept. Spiritual development in the Aeon of Horus is a solitary pursuit.

Magick and Worship

DianeAntonMarch221970The shift in the perception of divinity that is implicit in the spiritual paradigm of the Aeon of Horus necessitates a new interpretation of traditional spiritual practices. While the traditional religious modes of spiritual practice have become redundant, worship has not; it has just changed its mode of expression. Worshipful practice no longer centers on getting a weekly dose of spiritual momentum at secondhand from the properly ordained authority- such an ordination is no longer relevant in an Aeon where every man and every woman is a God.

There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 36

The Book of the Law delineates two modes of spiritual expression- rituals and feasts. These are complementary modes of expressing the magician’s will to ultimately reveal his divinity to himself, to apprehend his unknown crown. The active and concentrated mode of ritual practice is the direct method of magick- the magician uses ceremony to symbolize his aspiration. The objective of ritual performance is the absolute restraint of the mind to the contemplation of a single object.

Now true magical ceremonial is entirely directed to attain this end, and forms a magnificent gymnasium for those who are not already finished mental athletes. By act, word, and thought, both in quantity and quality, the one object of the ceremony is being constantly indicated. Every fumigation, purification, banishing, invocation, evocation, is chiefly a reminder of the single purpose, until the supreme moment arrives, and every fibre of the body, every force channel of the mind, is strained out in one overwhelming rush of the Will in the direction desired.- Aleister Crowley, Berashith

In order to achieve this, the magician must be able to entirely identify with that single object, contemplating it until it becomes his own equal and opposite and his union with the objective becomes inevitable. As the macrocosmic ritualist is restricted to the World of Assiah, The Sphere of the Elements in Malkuth, the only objectives that it is possible to identify with completely enough for the magician to influence them are also restricted to the Sphere of the Elements. In fact, the magician is only able to focus on his own elemental components, only capable of changing himself, and so the only magick that is genuinely efficacious are rituals of initiation, not rituals of worship.

Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright.- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verse 5

On the surface it may seem that the Book of the Law prescribes a regular pattern of feast days, setting aside holy days at intervals throughout the calendar for worshipful practice. Closer examination of the instructions for feasting shows this to be a subjective interpretation. In total, there are eight feasts that get a specific mention in the Second Chapter of the Book of the Law. Of these, three are set down for predetermined dates marking the anniversary of the genesis of the Book of the Law.

8 April 1904

8 April 1904

These specific feast dates are March 20 (the Supreme Ritual and the Equinox of the Gods exactly coincide), April 8, 9 & 10 (the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law) and August 12. The remaining five feasts mentioned in the text of Liber Al are indeterminate, perhaps suitable for the celebration of events in an individual life rather than as a regular day of Thelemite worship.

A feast every day in your hearts in the joy of my rapture!
A feast every night unto Nu, and the pleasure of uttermost delight!- The Book of the Law, Second Chapter, Verses 42 & 43

The Book of the Law elaborates further on the practice of feasting by indicating that it is a daily practice, making it an example of the most certain of magickal methods, devotion. The Thelemite feasts are not intended as rites of divine worship, they are instead the material source of the motive force that impels the individual towards the awareness of their own divinity- the fuel for the Great Work, material and spiritual nourishment. While the specific dates connected with the origins of the Book of the Law are potentially holy days, they are not exclusively so, and by celebrating them with a feast the magician connects his own momentum with the inertia of the entire Aeon. To the individual, the days that mark the definite development of his own godhead are the only truly holy days, and as the Book of the Law says, these should be every day.

Purging the Rituals of the Old Time

I have no serious objection to a finite god, or gods, distinct from men and things. In fact, personally, I believe in them all, and admit them to possess inconceivable though not infinite power.- Aleister Crowley, Berashith

All of this indicates that in order for the individual to become an active, consciously aware part of the “unity which includes and heads all things“, it requires that the old interpretation of the nature of divinity must be challenged. Positing the ultimate source of existence as non-existence renders worship of a god and goddess of Thelema meaningless. The finite nature of the Unity uttermost showed of Heru-Ra-Ha is identical at its core to the singularity of the microcosm, being driven by an equal and identical point of Hadit, that is in itself non-existent- implying that there is not even any real separation from the ultimate source in NOT.

Between Heru-Ra-Ha and the microcosm there is room for an infinite number of gods, each representing a unique aspect of the Formative World of Yetzirah, but as such they do not exist anywhere outside of the microcosm’s own conception of creation and that, from the most inert perspective possible, they are confined to a finite expression of the divine influence. This perspective gives such temporal expressions of divinity the appearance of some sort of omnipotence but in fact, as mere components of the microcosm’s own structure they are lesser than the divinity that exists at the core of every star.

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