The Parable of the Maiden and Hades
“There was a maiden that strayed among the corn, and sighed; then grew a new birth, a narcissus, and therein she forgot her sighing and her loneliness. Even instantly rode Hades heavily upon her, and ravished her away.”
–Liber LXV, I:47-49
“There was a maiden that strayed among the corn, and sighed.” This “maiden” is a symbol of the soul in an uninitiated state, the “natural soul.” We are – each and every one of us – this maiden. Crowley comments, “Persephone [is] the earth-bound soul.”1 This maiden “strayed among the corn,” which means that the uninitiated soul only seeks material nourishment. In response, the maiden “sighed,” which shows dissatisfaction with mundane life. Crowley comments, “Corn = material nourishment; its result is sorrow.”2
More esoterically, the maiden is the Final Heh of YHVH, the Virgin Princess3, the Priestess as the Virgin in the beginning of the Gnostic Mass.4 In Qabalistic symbolism, the Final Heh (YHVH) of this Daughter/Princess/maiden unites with the Vav (YHVH) of the Son/Prince, the Holy Guardian Angel who is called Hades in this particular Parable of the Maiden. He sets the Daughter upon the Throne of the Mother (as seen in the Gnostic Mass), so she transforms from the Daughter to become the Heh of YHVH, the Queen or Mother. It is the process of the Final Heh of YHVH becoming the Heh of YHVH, and it is Malkuth becoming Binah on the Tree of Life.5 In this parable, we see the first part of this process, the Vav/Hades uniting with the Final Heh/maiden.
“then grew a new birth, a narcissus, and therein she forgot her sighing and her loneliness.” The maiden sees, amongst all the corn of mere mundane life, a new and beautiful flower bloom: the narcissus. This blooming flower represents the awareness of there being more to this world than mere mundane, material subsistence: this is the beginning of the “spiritual quest” where the flower of Truth begins to come to full blossom. This flower starting to bloom correlates, in the course of the individual’s life, to puberty. Conversely, the awakening of the sexual-generative powers corresponds to the point in the spiritual quest where the potent unconscious and spiritual forces of one’s Self have started to be accessed. This helps to explain Crowley’s cryptic comment on this line, “Narcissus = the sexual instinct flowering as Beauty.”6 The blooming of this sacred narcissus flower of spirituality amongst the profane corn of mundanity causes the maiden of the uninitiated soul to forget her sorrow. Crowley comments, “Instantly the soul forgets the ‘corn’ and desires the flower.”7
More esoterically, the narcissus is a type of flower that is often bright yellow, has 6 petals called a “corona,”8 and has a stamen coming out of the middle: this is Solar-Phallic symbolism.9 The narcissus as “the sexual instinct flowering as Beauty” points Qabalistically to Tiphareth, which literally means “Beauty”; this Sephirah corresponds to Tiphareth as well as the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (who is called Hades in this parable). To desire Beauty is to, symbolically, desire what Tiphareth represents the dawning of the Solar, spiritual consciousness.
“Even instantly rode Hades heavily upon her, and ravished her away.” Hades is Lord of Hell, and Hell is the concealed place of one’s unconscious Self, i.e. the Self beyond the awareness of the ego. Hades is the Holy Guardian Angel, the Secret Self or soul of the individual,10 who is awoken through the pursuit of this narcissus flower of Truth and Beauty, the spiritual path. Hades taking the maiden into Hell represents initiation. This same idea is represented more generally in this text as the Heart of the aspirant being girt with the Serpent of Godhead.
More esoterically, Hades is the Prince/Son of YHVH who marries and unites with the Princess/Daughter of YHVH (ravishing her away), setting her upon the Throne of the Mother. Crowley comments, “Hades comes and carries her off. Hades is the lord of ‘Hell,’ i.e., the dark and secret but divine Soul within every man and woman. The rape thus means that the desire for Beauty awakes the Unconscious Self who then takes possession of the Soul, and enthrones her, only allowing her return to earth (Knowledge of the material world) at certain seasons, in order to attend to the welfare of mankind.”11 Crowley here confirms the idea that Hades is a name for the “divine Soul” in everyone. He then elaborates, based loosely on the classical mythology of Persephone and Hades, that she stays in the underworld and only returns to earth at certain seasons. That is, the soul – regardless of one’s level of initiation – must return to mundane reality from time to time to attend to material necessities.
Esoterically, Crowley makes this analogous to the Masters of the Temple who are in Binah on the Tree of Life, the place of the enthroned Queen (YHVH), where they exist in a state of non-duality, or no-ego. They “come back to earth” or duality (or are cast down out of the Abyss into the other Sephiroth, in Qabalistic symbolism) in order to “attend to the welfare of mankind,” similar to the idea of the Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who, instead of remaining in Nirvana, pledge to keep returning to the realm of illusion – Samsara or the profane, mundane, material world – in order to make sure that every being attains to Buddhahood.
SUMMARY: The natural, uninitiated soul is the “maiden.” The uninitiated soul-maiden strays among the “corn” of material, mundane nourishment, yet this causes dissatisfaction and sorrow. The possibility of spiritual Truth and the pursuit thereof unfolds the narcissus flower of aspiration to Beauty. The pursuit of this Path awakens the Unconscious Self, the Holy Guardian Angel or “Hades,” who initiates the soul by taking it into “Hell,” the secret Soul of each individual. This is an elaborate metaphor with deep Qabalistic meaning, yet its import can be stated simply: we must turn from mere material, mundane pursuits and enjoyment to seek the Beauty of Spiritual Truth, thereby awakening the Secret, Solar Self.
1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.
2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.
3The Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr: “This is the Daughter of the King. This is the Virgin of Eternity… For Kor they have called her, and Malkuth, and Betulah, and Persephone.”
4The Gnostic Mass specifically calls for the Priestess to be “Virgo Intacta,” she is called “VIRGIN” in the first part of the Mass, and the Priest explicitly states, “I, PRIEST and KING, take thee, Virgin pure without spot; I upraise thee; I lead thee to the East; I set thee upon the summit of the Earth.”
5This is succinctly explained by Crowley when he wrote in Book 4, “In one, the best, system of Magick, the Absolute is called the Crown, God is called the Father, the Pure Soul is called the Mother, the Holy Guardian Angel is called the Son, and the Natural Soul is called the Daughter. The Son purifies the Daughter by wedding her; she thus becomes the Mother, the uniting of whom with the Father absorbs all into the Crown.”
6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.
7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.
86 is the number of the Sephirah of Tiphareth, which is attributed to the Sun. The Sun is, of course, surrounded by a corona of light.
9The Sun is seen in its 6-fold petal and its yellow color, and its phallic nature is the stamen in the middle of the bowl of petals, the Lingam-Yoni.
10New Comment to Liber AL I:7, “He is the Wandering Knight or Prince of Fairy Tales who marries the King’s Daughter… [He] is also this same ‘Holy Ghost,’ or Silent Self of a man, or his Holy Guardian Angel… He is almost the ‘Unconscious’ of Freud, unknown, unaccountable, the silent Spirit, blowing ‘whither it listeth, but thou canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.’ It commands with absolute authority when it appears at all, despite conscious reason and judgment.”
11Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.